Front of La Favorita Bakery closed during pandemic. Photo by Antonio Mejías-Rentas

As Congress and the President argued this week over the amount of COVID-19 relief aid U.S. taxpayers should receive in a second round of stimulus checks, some Boyle Heights residents and elected officials said the money is critical for families facing the possibility of eviction, running out of food and threatened by an alarming rate of coronavirus infections.

On Tuesday, the Federal government said it had begun sending payments of up to $600 for individuals included in a $900 billion COVID relief bill signed by President Trump on Sunday. Earlier that day, the Republican-led Senate refused to vote on a bill passed Monday by House Democrats and Republicans, that would have increased the aid to up to $2,000 per individual.

Instead, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill that tied the larger payment to two other issues being pushed by Trump: election security and social media reform. That bill is not expected to get any support, so it looks like the payments will remain at $600.

An earlier stimulus disbursement approved in May provided up to $1200 per individual and up to $3,400 for a family of four.

Boyle Heights resident María Pacho, 52, said that although she is fortunate to have a full-time job with the county Department of Health Services, not many are so lucky. She said the money is more than just stimulus.

“It’s the least [Republicans] can do,” said Pacho. “Americans are jobless, they have families to feed, perhaps paying for their kid’s tuitions, elementary school, high school, college.”

“[Congress] needs to set their political ideologies aside and think of the families in the future that will lead our nation,” she added. “I feel that Trump poisoned many of Americans but now that he’s out America will heal.”

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gómez (D-Los Angeles) voted in favor of the $2,000 in direct stimulus, which he and other progressive colleagues refer to as “survival checks.” Gómez, whose 34th Congressional District includes Boyle Heights, said that the increase would have provided much needed help to struggling families during the pandemic.

“We believe that it is something that is desperately needed,” said Gómez. “People in my district are suffering disproportionately from COVID, the pandemic, and the economic fallout of COVID. So, the $2,000 is a is a big, big deal. And it’s something that we’ve been pushing for, but even in the [original stimulus package] we were still more generous than the $600 that we currently have.”

Still, it appears that some of Boyle Heights residents who need it most would not qualify for the relief. People who do not have a social security number were not able to receive previous aid and it’s unlikely that they will receive it this time.

Ana Martínez, 37, is an undocumented person who lost her job when the pandemic started. Martínez said she has since relied on her savings to survive but there is not much left. She said that although she hopes the Senate eventually approves a larger stimulus check, she most likely won’t get any of the money.

“I hope [people] get the money but I’m [undocumented], I don’t get a dollar for being undocumented,” Martinez said. “I’m not sorry to say it, and I hope that [the Senate] give them the money because there are many people in very difficult situations.”

Congressman Gómez said he believes that if someone pays taxes, they should be able to receive federal aid.  

“I have been fighting since the first package to include people who have tax identification numbers to be included in the in the stimulus checks,” said Gómez. “I believe that if you’re paying taxes to the United States government, then you are on equal footing as a person with a social security number, plain, and simple.”

Gomez added that people who need help should contact his office or their local city council member for more information on critical aid.

On Wednesday evening, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he believes people who are undocumented deserve to be included in all aid packages.

“I think it is unconscionable that we see folks who pay taxes, who contribute to this country, who are working in essential jobs from our fields to stocking our shelves somehow, who often have American citizen children and spouses, denied directly.”

Garcetti added that McConnell’s move to hold up aid is “one of the most un-American things I’ve heard of in some time.”

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Albert Serna Jr. is a queer Chicano journalist from the San Gabriel Valley. He has a passion for news, politics, and investigative reporting. On his free time he reads about true crime and does drag.

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