Maria Gonzalez and her husband have both been out of work for about a month and a half because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gonzalez normally cleans houses and her husband works as a house painter.
“Mi esposo paró de trabajar porque pues, en las casas...no quieren la gente adentro de sus casas. Toda la gente se está protegiendo,” Gonzalez said.
(“My husband stopped working because in houses...people don’t want people in their houses. Everyone is protecting themselves.”)
Gonzalez said they had saved a little money. Then, in late February, she was diagnosed with shingles. The doctor’s visits and medication added up to hundreds of dollars and ate into their savings. Gonzalez and her husband do not have health insurance. Now she worries about their financial future.
“En realidad, a uno lo que más nos interesa es pues, pagar la renta,” she said.
(“In reality, what we care about most is paying rent.”)
Gonzalez and her husband both emigrated from Mexico nearly 30 years ago. Gonzalez said she has had a permanent resident card, also known as a green card, for about a year, but her husband is here illegally.
The couple pays taxes using an individual taxpayer identification number.
But under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, they don’t qualify for federal stimulus checks.
Under the law, a person who does not have a valid Social Security number or is a nonresident immigrant is not eligible for an economic impact payment. Neither is someone who files jointly with a spouse who lacks a valid Social Security number. These people are also disqualified from the bonus payments based on the number of children living in their home.
“Unfortunately, the CARES Act left out a lot of families, immigrant families, from being able to receive a stimulus check,” said Stefania Arteaga, an organizer with Charlotte immigrant rights advocacy organization Comunidad Colectiva.
Arteaga said Comunidad Colectiva started a fund to support these immigrants and hopes to raise $15,000. Eligible families would receive a $1,500 check, according to Arteaga.
“One check of $1,500 isn’t going to fix it all, but we know that a check of $1,500 to immigrant families will help to keep them afloat for a little longer,” she said.
Hispanic residents made up nearly one quarter of Mecklenburg County’s reported positive coronavirus cases as of May 3, according to county data, even though they represent only 14% of the county’s population.
An estimated 100,000 unauthorized immigrants lived in the Charlotte region in 2016, according to a Pew Research Center report.
People born in other countries make up 20% of hospitality workers in Mecklenburg County, said Emily Yaffe with Charlotte’s Office of Equity, Mobility and Immigrant Integration.
“That’s restaurant workers, people who work at hotels, people who work at events," Yaffe said. "Largely those jobs are just not open right now for people. If 20% are immigrants, that’s a huge number of people who are out of work currently.”
Yaffe said thus far, many Charlotte groups have stepped up to help immigrants who are unemployed by providing them with meals and other resources.
But she said that’s “really hard to sustain.” Even as North Carolina slowly reopens, she said, businesses will be operating at reduced capacity and so likely won’t hire as many workers.
“With how long that COVID-19 is going to affect our communities, it’s hard to think about doing this on a really long-term perspective -- of supporting people who are unable to work,” Yaffe said.
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