Chelsea, Massachusetts – In one of the Massachusetts communities hardest hit by the coronavirus, many immigrants barely earn enough to survive even in times of economic boom. Today, residents of Chelsea, a densely populated Boston suburb, mostly Hispanic, are struggling to feed their families as the virus spreads around them, and many of them are unable to receive government help because they are in the country illegally.
“They are people who will not get a government check,” said Chelsea Administrator Thomas Ambrosino. “They don’t have a Social Security number, they haven’t paid taxes, they survive on the margins of society and are being ignored by government programs.”
Chelsea, with more than 40,000 people concentrated in 5 square kilometers (2 square miles), is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts, with an infection rate six times the state average as of Wednesday.RELATED
The municipality reported 1,500 cases and more than 80 deaths. Statewide, 43,000 cases and 2,200 deaths are known.
Many people are starting to receive $ 1,200 checks, part of a government aid program that also plans to pay another $ 600 a week to those who are out of work. But people who are in the country without permission will not receive that help.
California allocated $ 75 million to a Disaster Relief Fund for people who are in the country illegally.
Chelsea is located across the Mystic River, across from Boston, and 60% of its residents are Hispanic. More than a third came from Central America, mainly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
Those who are in the country abound without permission, many living in the same house, making it impossible for them to isolate themselves, according to Ambrosino. Those who can still work in branches considered essential still depend on public transport. The rest were out of work.
“People are hungry. They have no home, ”said Gladys Vega, executive director of the Chelsea Collaborative, a community group that cares for those most in need.
On Tuesday hundreds of people queued around the corner to receive food distributed by Vega’s group. Chelsea Collaborative is helping to process 125 daily unemployment insurance applications and bringing food and other supplies to people with COVID-19 who cannot leave their homes, Vega said. He added that members of his organization know that they risk their lives by offering to help those in need.
“This keeping distances is complicated for us because we are a very warm community. I assure you that we have shed many tears, “he said.
In most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that disappear within two to three weeks. But it can also cause serious disorders, especially in the elderly and people with other health problems, and can be fatal.
Ambrosino said the municipality received a lot of support from the state, but fears that it will be impossible to repair the damage caused to many families.
“We are going to do what we can to meet the needs, but they are overwhelming,” Ambrosino said. “Unless the governor shows up with trucks full of $ 100 bills every morning, I don’t know if we can meet the needs.”