New York food banks have become inundated with newcomers deprived of income since the near-total halt of business in the United States' economic capital.

Demand explodes for New York food banks

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by Catherine TRIOMPHE

New York food banks have become inundated with newcomers deprived of income since the near-total halt of business in the United States’ economic capital.

Sacks of oranges, sweet potatoes and onions are spread over three tables at an open-air market in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in the north of Manhattan. Sterilized milk and cans of tuna and salmon cover three others.

Hundreds of people came over the weekend to restock at the distribution center, one of many run by City Harvest, a major New York-based charity.

There are no long lines reminiscent of the soup kitchens of the 1930s. Instead, people trickle in, often wearing masks for protection and keeping their distance from each other under the direction of market volunteers.

Among the customers is Lina Alba, 40, a single mother with five children aged between 11 and 23. She worked as a maid in a Manhattan hotel until it closed two weeks ago.

Her two oldest children also lost their jobs.

“It is my first time,” she said. “We need the help now. This is crazy. So we don’t know what’s gonna happen in a few weeks.”

She’s trying to stay positive, though. “At least I’m spending time with my kids… I am the teacher, I am the mom — I am everything.”

“We are alive, we are healthy, we just need to pray.”

It took the single mother a week to register for unemployment — the service flooded, pointing to much worse unemployment numbers than those announced by the federal government on Thursday.

But on Friday, “I did it, finally,” Alba said, relieved.

The benefits should start arriving in three weeks. Alba also hopes to receive soon at least $1,200 from the federal government, thanks to a historic aid package passed last week by Congress.

“It’s not gonna be enough,” but “you’re gonna appreciate anything right now,” she said, noting that “a lot of people” need help.

“It is the whole entire city.”

– Millions need help –
Jose Neri, 51, is one of many Hispanic employees who worked in now-closed New York restaurants. He also came to a food bank for the first time.

There are five people in his family. “We’re using our savings to survive,” he said in Spanish, wearing a mask and gloves in an effort to prevent himself from catching the virus.

“We’ve got what we need to hold it together for now,” he said. He is also counting on the federal government’s promised assistance to low-income workers.

Jhordana Ramirez, 39, has to keep working, despite the high risk of infection in a city that has recorded tens of thousands of cases.

She’s a home caregiver for senior citizens, who “depend 100 percent” on her, she explained in Spanish.

The pandemic has had an “enormous” effect on her household, she said. Her husband and oldest daughter lost their jobs. Her youngest daughter, just eight years old, is “anxious” and can’t keep still.

“I try to save as much as possible, especially for the rent, bills like electricity, cable, food and all those things,” she said. She is also impatiently waiting for her federal check.

City Harvest employee Geraldine Fermin has heard stories like this a lot since most New York City business closed down two weeks ago.

“It’s heartbreaking that it has to be like that for a lot of people,” she said.

“People that were poor are now poorer, and people that had decent jobs, that could get by, now are poor too.”

“Before, there were 1.2 million people in New York who needed help for food. Now, there are three times as many, that’s more than three million New Yorkers,” said City Harvest vice president Eric Ripert.

Ripert also owns the famous restaurant Le Bernardin, closed due to the coronavirus.

Speaking in French, Ripert said that City Harvest, which in addition to its markets also supplies food to some 400 homeless shelters, does not currently have any supply problems.

But it needs funds to buy more food, and so it is teaming up with other organizations to create a united front against “a situation that will get worse.”

“We got through September 11, the great recession of 2008-2009, we got through a lot of things, but none of that is comparable to this catastrophe that we’re living through,” Ripert said.

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Isusunod na sana sa pulis, sundalo: Duterte blames pandemic for failure to hike pay of public school teachers

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday (March 4) said he would have raised the salaries of public school teachers if the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t happen.

In a speech at the inauguration of two public school buildings in Valenzuela City, Duterte said he was already “saving” funds to raise the salaries of public school teachers.

Duterte previously said he wanted to increase the pay of public school teachers after doing the same for soldiers and policemen in 2018.

“Nag-iipon na po ako sa totoo lang kasi sabi ko next ang teacher,” he said.

“Now, when COVID came, bagsak talaga ang ekonomiya. Sarado ang mga factories, manufacturing whatever kasi takot nga eh. There was a lockdown. And between the economy and the health of the people with the pandemic whirling around, I thought it wise to cast my lot with the interest of the people in their health,” Duterte added.

An entry-level public school teacher with salary grade 11 currently earns P23,877 monthly under the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

In a speech on June 13, 2019, Duterte said he was “working on” his promise to raise the pay of public school teachers, but said it was difficult since there were “million[s] of teachers” while there were only 160,000 policemen and 130,000 military personnel.

“It’s easy. That’s why their salaries have doubled,” Duterte said.

Amid vaccine arrival, Duterte to stay vigilant against Covid-19: ‘We may not be out of the woods yet’

By Prince Golez

Despite the availability of vaccines, President Rodrigo Duterte still reminds Filipinos to observe and comply with the health protocols.

“Let us continue observing and practicing health and safety protocols while waiting for more Covid-19 vaccines to reach the Philippines,” Duterte said at the arrival ceremony for the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine Thursday evening.

“We may not be out of the woods yet but we are making progress and the end is in sight, and with your cooperation, we will overcome this pandemic and ensure the health and safety of everyone,” he added.

The President also stressed that in a pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is.

“As I have said before, these vaccines should be treated as a global public good. the need for international solidarity and cooperation cannot be made clearer than this pandemic because no one is safe globally until everyone is safe,” he also said.

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