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County warns street vendors to follow COVID-19 rules

LOS ANGELES — County officials are warning street vendors — especially those selling food — to halt activities that can spread coronavirus or risk citations. 

In a web conference aimed at reaching out to immigrants and residents about special health, food and monetary services devised to cope with COVID-19 April 30, Liza Frias, director of environmental health with the county, said her agency wants vendors to understand the risk of spreading the illness to co-workers and customers while preparing and selling food on sidewalks. 

She confirmed that health department inspectors were issuing warnings to vendors unwilling to follow state and county stay-at-home orders, and that they can be punished with up to $2,000 fines. 

Frias said the county doesn’t want to impound carts or wares used to cook food, because those measures impact the economy of the vendors and their families in times of need. 

“What we are asking is for our street food vendors to please make sure that they comply with the law and not be out there in a position of [us] having to confiscate their equipment,” Frias said. 

Warnings to desist would be followed by police enforcement, including disposing of food, Frias said. 

Frias said food trucks and cart vendors with health permits must have hand sanitizers, operate six feet away from customers and sell only food to go, and asked residents to report noncompliant stands and places that have tables or chairs for service on site. 

County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the county assembled a series of programs that provide health services, food and money to pay for rent and utilities for poor residents regardless of immigration status.

Solis said that CalFresh helps enrollees who do not have to worry about becoming a public charge with the federal government, and assured applicants do not need to reveal if they are undocumented. 

CalFresh provides benefits for food purchasing to low-income households to keep healthy levels of nutrition. Solis added that the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program works for pregnant women and for mothers with children 5 and younger, bundling health care with nutrition and food services.

The supervisor reminded residents that an eviction moratorium for renters will stay in place until May 31, and encouraged housing tenants unable to pay rent because of job losses due to the health crisis to visit www.covid19.lacounty.gov and search for resources. 

She announced the five county supervisors are working on a program that would offer grants and loans for small and micro businesses to be rolled out in the next weeks and stressed that the moratorium defers missed monthly payments related to COVID-19 up to 12 months. 

For qualifying residents without a bank account, Solis unveiled a financial program that creates accounts to receive the federal stimulus payment of $1,200 per person, which would help them pay bills, avoid overdraft fees and keep their money safe. 

And for vulnerable homeless residents, Solis announced a 16-day program to shelter in place at participating Project Roomkey hotel or motel, with the possibility of permanent housing after the pandemic is over. 

Anna Gorman, director of community partnerships and programs, said the county created My Health LA to provide primary and emergency care to anyone without insurance, to keep residents stay healthy and offer treatment for conditions unrelated to COVID-19.

Gorman indicated that because of the crisis individuals can make a phone call and sign in, and start being screened at thousands of participating clinics throughout the county. 

Under the program, individuals can also receive counseling to treat mental illness and drug abuse. 

“We want everyone to get health insurance regardless of immigration or economic status,” Gorman said. 

Public and Social Services Director Antonia Jimenez said CalFresh recipients can get free home delivery if they make food purchases at Amazon and Walmart of at least $35, and order dishes from participating restaurants.  

In addition, Jimenez announced a program to assist refugees with at least eight months of granted residency, though she did not mention how much each person would get, or whether the program consists of debit cards.  

Immigration Affairs Director Rigo Reyes added that anyone can receive emergency attention at county hospitals, including pregnant women. 

“We want to make sure that our residents, regardless of immigration status, understand the services that are available,” Reyes said. “At the end of the day, those able to understand the services available from the county will be able to fare better during the pandemic.”

By Alfredo Santana

Contributing Writer