LOS ANGELES – Every day Rodolfo Barrientos goes to a truck commissary in South L.A. to pick up his taco truck Gracias Señor, and heads to the Palisades, but today is different.
“Incredibly uncertain, that would be the biggest feeling I have,” says Barrientos.
He is not the only one, on this day, the lot should be empty.
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“This is incredibly rare, because all these truck owners are incredibly hard-working people and for them not to be working right now, that’s unseen,” says Barrientos.
What is also unseen is the virus COVID19, that has forced stay-at-home orders for California’s 40 million residents. Barrientos said, that order is what propelled him to shut down operations.
“My biggest reason for deciding to close the truck was to protect the public, to protect the people of the community that we serve,” says Barrientos.
The City of L.A., agrees with Barrientos and passed a moratorium on street vending effective immediately. But at the state level, the governor is allowing food trucks to continue operating with increased cleanings and distancing in lines. Most are following the city’s instructions, around 90 percent of the food trucks in this lot have cut back on hours or stopped operations completely.
“This may seem like a small business and it is a small business but its reach, it reaches several people, you got to seem my pest control provider, he’s affected by this. The person that does the cleanliness of the truck, he’s affected by it. All of our vendors, they’re impacted by it and then multiply that by the hundredths of trucks that there are,” says Barrientos.
The economic impact of the virus is just starting to show. On March 16, 80,000
Californians filed for unemployment benefits, when the average is closer to 2,000.
In addition, many of the people that work on these trucks are undocumented immigrants, and are unable to apply for unemployment benefits.
“Closing the truck meant that every day we lose money, not only do we not make money, we lose money,” says Barrientos.
Among those affected, 69-year-old Juanito, who works six days a week cleaning the pots and pans of the food trucks. He has no set salary or sick days, he gets paid per cart, a small one like this is $10, a big one $20.
“Economically it’s bad for us, because if they don’t work, then we don’t work,” he tells me in Spanish.
Barrientos knows that, and he will be paying his employees for at least the next two weeks even though his truck will be parked.
“I honestly do feel that it’s going to be really difficult but that we all are going to get through it at some point” says Barrientos.
But he also admits, the ripple effects on his business and family will last years.