HOUSTON – Alba Garcia, 51, has a decision to make. Does she pay rent Wednesday or does she buy food for her 7-year-old daughter?
“Maybe I should try and pay my rent because I can’t bear for me and my daughter to be on the streets. I can beg for food but I can’t lose my apartment," she said in Spanish. Joe Higgs, an organizer for The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) acted as a translator. TMO works with Holy Ghost Catholic Church where Garcia is a member.
Garcia is among the millions in the U.S. who are facing uncertain times as the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has brought the economy to a grinding halt. Making ends meet by cleaning houses, Garcia had several steady jobs before COVID-19 spread became a serious concern in the Houston-area. However, since the outbreak, she says she went to work at only one home and another one of her clients chose to pay her despite not working.
Garcia’s loss in income has put her and her daughter in a precarious position, having to choose between avoiding coronavirus and ensuring basic necessities like shelter and food.
While Garcia’s plight is not unlike many in Texas who lost their jobs or sources of income due to the pandemic, she will not be getting help from the federal government during these trying times.
Last week, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the history-making $2 trillion aid package to get immediate help to Americans and businesses. One part of that plan includes a one-time stimulus check to most Americans who qualify — $1,200 for an adult, $2,400 for a couple and $500 per child. A person’s yearly income will be the main deciding factor on whether or not they will get a stimulus check in the coming weeks.
While Garcia’s yearly income falls well within the range of those who will get a check, she will not get one because she is an undocumented immigrant. Garcia says she escaped an abusive marriage in El Salvador and came to the U.S. in 2002 to help provide for her five children. She has worked numerous jobs ever since but was never able to save for a rainy day because what little she had left after rent and necessities, she sent back to El Salvador for her children.