United Way of Greater Los Angeles continues to identify more organizations with critical needs to support during the pandemic. 

In late May, we announced a series of grants supporting organizations providing direct relief to mariachis, day laborers, janitors and domestic workers. This phase of funding also included grants to local organizations for capacity building and Virtual Income Tax Assistance. 

any of our hard working neighbors are not eligible for federal assistance. At the same time, safer-at-home regulations prevented them from working. They may be especially vulnerable to becoming homeless without the right support. Funds provided can keep food on their tables and a roof over their head. We’ve been working with organizations to help fill the gap for low-income families affected by the crisis.  

One of our grantees, the Community Power Collective (CPC), leveraged its role as trusted community organizer to meet the immediate needs of the people they serve in Boyle Heights, focusing on mutual aid and virtual communication. While organizers continue to advocate at the policy level, supporting people day to day through wellness checks and connecting people with resources is their number one priority right now.

Before COVID-19, Boyle Heights was a vibrant, culturally rich area. Mariachis and street vendors made the plaza a welcoming community gathering spot. At the same time, that community was already having a hard time making ends meet. Transitioning to safer-at-home has dried up many opportunities for work and income.

“They want to work. They want to have control over their jobs, control over their livelihood,” Carla De Paz, the CPC’s director told us. “It’s hard for people used to working so hard every day. Their jobs were outside interacting with people and now they can’t work at all. We are trying to support people and encouraging them to stay home.”

According to Carla, CPC has the goal as we move into recovery to “locally connecting people to the resources, capital and infrastructure in the neighborhood to have a more stable way to do work.” 

United Way’s Pandemic Relief Fund grant helped CPC get resources to these people who have been struggling with rent and other basic needs. Carla told us, “The turn around for this grant was fast. I appreciate the urgent, emergency response.”

Two individuals who will benefit from grants through CPC are mariachis Tomas Gonzalez, age 63, and Brigida Ponce, 67. Tomas and Brigida rely on mariachi gigs as their main source of income, and they have been unable to work due to safer-at-home. Tomas supports his teenage son, and they plan to use the funds for rent, groceries, and minimum bill payments-especially his phone, a lifeline to job prospects. 

Brigida lives with a roommate in Boyle Heights and has been hit very hard financially by the crisis, having no family nearby to lean on. Without income, she has been unable to pay rent. Groceries and medicine must come first.

Carla and her team continue to help members of the Boyle Heights community one person at a time. Despite trying times she is still full of hope. “It’s been amazing to see everyone come together,” Carla remarked. “I see the strength and ability of our team to move fast and make a plan quickly. Our members learn new ways to communicate like Zoom and provide support for each other.” 

CPC hosts a weekly Zoom call each week with about 100 people. Many mariachis and street vendors attend. They identify resources and help people fill out information for benefits like the Angeleno card and available state funds. 

With the help of CPC, many people in Boyle Heights are able to breathe a little easier. But our work is not done. We will continue to update our readers as the Fund’s efforts reach out to more and more of our most vulnerable neighbors, and as we branch out too long term investments that will seed a just and equitable recovery. 

Please join us to keep the much needed support and resources to incredible people and partners such as Community Power Collective (CPC) https://www.unitedwayla.org/en/give/