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La Opinión
Thursday February 09, 2012

Crisis Impacts Los Angelinos
The Bills Do Not Forgive the Difficult Economic Situation

By Isaías Alvarado, La Opinión
 
The bills continue arriving but CES tenant leader Mayra Morales no longer knows with how to pay them. Photo: Aurelia Fortune / The Opinion

This is how Mayra Morales measures the current crisis: She had not eaten meat since three months ago. "And who knows until when," says this Los Angeles resident. Her family has had to modify their diet to continue paying the rent for their apartment and other basic services.

"We buy where it's the cheapest; we look for the bargains. Its still not enough." said Morales from the room of a humble apartment, where every night a sofa becomes bed.

In recent months, the only financial support for her family is the meager pension collected by her mother, Ana Hernández, 67, now bedridden by a recent operation. Morales must take care of her with an injured ankle. Over a year ago she had an accident at the hotel where she worked as a housekeeper.

The mailman brings misfortune to the Morales. They are the bills that do not forgive their difficult economic situation. "We don't have enough money to cover everything. Each day things are getting more expensive," says Ana, who brought her daughter here from El Salvador in the 1980s, fleeing the civil war.

CES tenant leader Mayra Morales talks with La Opinión about how difficult it is survive amid the crisis, while caring for her mother.[Photo: Aurelia Ventura/La Opinion]

And bad news has not stopped arriving. Yesterday, the City Council approved to charge 5 dollars more for the service that provides potable water to the residents of the city (on average residents will pay $45.91 dollars each month); while the Gas Company continues proposing an increase of the 5.8% or $2.58 dollars more in each bill (the plan could be voted in the spring).

"Don't scare me!" Mrs. Morales said, tired of paying more and more money for basic services and rent for an apartment lacking maintenance. In 2007, before the crisis, the rent was $700, now she pays $805.

Squeezed by the lack of jobs and the collapse of the mortgage market, Los Angelinos have received additional burdens: taxes, bills, food and fuel prices that are ever higher.

"Poor families in Los Angeles have been squeezed and hit from all sides," says Larry Gross, executive director of the group Coalition for Economic Survival. "They face a situation in which they have to decide between buying medicine, clothes for their children or to maintain a ceiling over their heads," he said.

Gasoline alone, which cost $2.76 a gallon in September of 2007, yesterday averaged $3.81 in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area. Public transportation costs also increased: Metrolink trains now charge $12 dollars more for monthly passes compared to 2010, and Metro buses and trains in the county rose since 2007 from $1.25 to $150 for regular fares.

"We had to take drastic steps of either increasing fares or cutting services", explained José Ubaldo, spokesman for Metro.

In 2009, almost in the depths of the crisis, the people of the cities of South Gate and Pico Rivera experienced a sales taxes increase from 8.25% to 10.75%, in part due to Measure R, for transportation projects. Now it has been proposed to extend the measure from 30 to at least 40 years, to increase funding.

The Morales family prays that the economy improve, but also pray that the increases stop. "We are in the hands of God and he will know what to do with us," says Mrs. Ana.


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