More middle-class Mexicans falling into poverty due to COVID unemployment
In Mexico, more than a million formal jobs have been wiped out during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Mexican Social Security Institute. The result is that many middle-class Mexicans are falling into poverty.
In downtown Mexico City, hundreds of people line-up at the Vicentino community food kitchen.
Many are homeless, but a growing number are middle-class Mexicans, who desperately need one square meal per day, free of charge.
"We get people who are now unemployed, people who’ve lost their jobs. Or people who lost a family member. They come here and we help them," said the kitchen's Director Fray Carlos Marcelino.
Even before the virus outbreak, many middle-class Mexicans were struggling economically. The pandemic has made things much worse.
Mexico’s public agency that measures poverty, CONEVAL, says increased hardship could force 9 million middle-class Mexicans below the minimum standard of living.
The economic crisis provoked by the pandemic has left 73-year-old Victor Moreno with no income.
"I need to pay rent, pay my electric bills. I must pay for telephone service. If I want to cook, I need to pay for gas. The situation is difficult," Moreno said. He's a retired engineer who spent 40 years working for the government.
Laura Lopez is a widow with five children to feed.
"My family stays alive because of these food kitchens, which allow my children to eat. Right now, I’m unemployed," Lopez said.
Vicentino food kitchen is one of 46 in Mexico City. It hands out about 300 bags of food in just 20 minutes. Then the food is gone.
As the last step of the day, volunteers pack bread, which will be eaten tomorrow by the people most in need.
The United Nations says Mexico will likely be among the countries whose economy is hardest hit by the pandemic.
Workers here get no federal unemployment benefits, which makes their struggle even more difficult.