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Wednesday, March 25, 2020


The coronavirus threatens to swell the ranks of Californians in poverty as businesses shutter and workers stay home. Lawmakers are coming up with ideas to soften the economic blow.

Donna Insalaco had to lay off 40 of the 45 employees at Pizzaiolo, her gourmet pizzeria in downtown Oakland, after sales fell through a “Black hole.”

“A lot of tears,” Insalaco said, “All of us here live check-to-check.”

Responding to a statewide call for restaurants to close their doors to dine-in customers, Pizzaiolo is now only offering pick-up and delivery.

“We hope that we can limp by enough to stay open and call our staff back,” Insaleco said.

About 6.9 million Californians don’t have enough money to cover basic needs, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Another 7.2 million are just above the poverty threshold for their county, one step away from calamity—a job loss, rent hike or surprise medical bill.

Now the coronavirus pandemic threatens to swell those ranks of poor Californians as restaurants, stores and other businesses shutter and workers stay home.

“Whole sectors will have to turn off. And that means that millions of people’s livelihoods will turn off,” said Jesse Rothstein, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. “Very few Americans have cushions to be able to live for months without pay, and low-wage workers, even less so.”