SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Eve Ramirez made the difficult decision to close her City Heights taco shop when the coronavirus outbreak hit.
She says she did it to protect her eight-month-old son.
"I got scared to death," she said. "I was like, you know what, I had my baby boy in January, imagine something were to happen to me. I'm a single mom. I can't risk my baby's life. I immediately shut down without thinking twice."
Ramirez, who owns Mexicali Street Tacos, is one of a large number of San Diegans now struggling to pay for basic necessities amid the pandemic.
A San Diego Association of Governments study released Thursday says 71% of respondents reported not being able to pay for rent, food, and utilities, while two-thirds said the pandemic has negatively impacted their employment.
Ramirez said she has received donated diapers from friends, is on Medi-Cal and is receiving government food allowances.
"I had no choice but to apply for help," she said.
More than 3,500 San Diego households responded to the survey, conducted via 23 community-based organizations. San Ysidro Health surveyed 300 families about the impact of the virus.
Ana Melgoza, the organization's vice president of external affairs, says the virus has hit South Bay families particularly hard. She says many live in overcrowded homes due to high rent, and are forced to work in jobs that require interaction with the public such as in grocery stores and retail.
"When you have people literally dying to go to work and provide for their families, we need to make sure health care is a priority for people so that when they do feel sick or are infected they have the right follow up care to manage and survive this deadly virus," Melgoza said.
Melgoza said one potential solution is to provide hotel vouchers so people in overcrowded homes can quarantine safely.
The study also says 60% of parents with school-aged children reported distance learning challenges during the school year. It calls for exploring new ways to provide direct monetary assistance to families in need, new partnerships between governments and community-based organizations, and new paid training and internship opportunities for underserved areas.