Tag Archives: #EthnicMedia

South Asian Sex Workers’ COVID Struggle For Survival

Tell A Story – a column where riveting South Asian stories are presented like never before through unique video storytelling.

Covid-19 has impacted many but the sex workers across the globe have been the worst affected. The entire industry has come to a standstill amidst the protocol, with their livelihoods at stake. Most of them are on the verge of starvation and struggling to make their ends meet.

Alarmingly, there are over 800,00 sex workers in India. Spread across eight large red light areas and over 16 small clusters scattered across the country. The lockdown and covid norms have made thousands of them penniless prone to deplorable conditions. The social stigma and discrimination deny them basic moral support or cooperation from the nearby communities.

With no proper government documents or basic identity records, like adhaar card and ration card, the community does not qualify for any of the government subsidies released during the pandemic. Majority have failed to pay rent for months and are threatened with eviction by rowdy landlords. With school going kids and family to support at their hometown, the plight is daunting, leaving them helpless.  

Abandoned at the mercy of various non-governmental organizations, their ordeal for basic needs is horrifying to note.

In Oct 2020, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) proposed to recognize sex workers as ‘informal workers’. However, many organizations came forward citing the risk of decriminalization of prostitution. After a month-long legal battle, the NHRC advisory, which was issued by a panel to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the human rights of women sex workers, included them under the section – ‘women at work’. But whether the provisions under the government scheme would reach them in time remains a question to ponder.

Not just in India, the sex workers worldwide are among the hardest hit in pandemic and continue to suffer destitution. Unknown to many, March 3rd was the International Sex Workers Rights Day.

In 2001, over 30,000 sex workers in India staged a protest to raise awareness of their rights. Organized by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, they gathered in Calcutta for a festival despite efforts from prohibitionist groups who wanted to revoke their permit. The event had a huge impact globally and since then sex workers across the world commemorate the day every year. Programs are organized to spread awareness about the abuses sex workers face and the violation of their human rights.

This year, unfortunately, it’s a fight for survival. In the wake of International Sex Workers Rights Day 2021, Tell-A-Story unveils the appalling story of Indian sex workers, the hidden truth, and the harsh reality behind the red light areas of India.


Suchithra Pillai comes with over 15 years of experience in the field of journalism, exploring and writing about people, issues, and community stories for many leading media publications in India and the United States.

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The Power of Visualization: A South Asian Dream

Are you ready to achieve your goals and ideal life? 2021 is the year to renew, refresh, revitalize and move towards achieving your goals. Visualization is a tool you can use to realize your goals and attract what you desire. I use this tool regularly and would like to tell you more about it.

A Vision Board is a tool that is used to represent your intentions and goals to create your ideal life with images, pictures, symbols, numbers, positive words, and affirmations. It helps you clarify your goals.

Define your goals in your relationships, work, family, finance, or more by writing them down. To make it simple and more effective, let’s build yourself a Vision Board. Choose pictures and images that bring forth objects and experiences that you want to attract in your life. Take a board, or if you prefer things online, you could also use an online tool like a ‘Pinterest’ board. You can cut out pictures from the newspaper, magazines, and the internet which may speak to you about your goals, ideas, vision, and success. 

Add a happy picture of yourself to this collection! 

Try to organize your pictures to make them appealing to yourself. Bring forth your creative juices while working on your vision board. You can use markers or metallic pens to write quotes, positive words, and affirmations. 

Your vision board could be oriented towards a short-term or long-term goal or a specific area. I tend to create different boards for the various aspects of my life; relationships, health, job goals, finance, travel.

Place your vision board in a place that is easily visible to you. You may like it on your nightstand, worktable, fridge, or even on the lock screen of your phone.

I have learned that seeing it for 5 minutes when you awaken and just before sleeping are the most powerful times of the day. Seeing the images the first thing in the morning helps in creating what you want to happen or have. In addition, seeing these images one hour before bedtime keeps these images running through your subconscious mind at night in a replay mode.

What is Creative Visualization? You start to create mental images vividly and repeatedly in your mind of what you want to happen, in order to help that event come about in real life.

We have all heard the quote, “ A picture is worth a thousand words.”

We picture the images we want as IT HAS HAPPENED. Our brain and subconscious receive the message of what it is we desire and set the wheels in motion to make that wish come true. When we learn how to visualize correctly, the images we generate become a reality.  

Image from www.berries.com

Once you have created your Vision Board you can select and focus on one image. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, where you won’t be interrupted, and begin picturing in your mind what it is that you want. It could be an event you want to occur, a goal you want to achieve, or a personality trait, such as self-confidence or compassion, that you want to develop more fully. It may also be that you want to improve your health, relationships, or work life. 

See it clearly in your mind’s eye and really get into the experience. Give your imagination free reign, Imagine all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or tactile sensations you would expect to be there when your dream finally manifests as reality. Picture yourself inside the story, not outside looking in

Feel as it has happened, not happening. 

If, for example, you wish for your children to be healthy and well-balanced. Picture them in front of you – laughing, happy, caring, and loving. Listen to the sounds of laughter, the smell of the scent of the soap after the kids have showered, and the aroma of a home-cooked meal. Feel the joy of reaching out and hugging your children and the bonds of being together. 

For instance, a Bharatnatyam dancer who wants to achieve her goal to be an accomplished dancer has to have ambition, dedication, and a want to achieve her dream. While closing her eyes she imagines herself on stage in front of people, dancing with confidence and grace. The dancer can hear her heartbeat and the elation of the crowd. She feels the swish of her colorful attire against her skin. Her ‘abhinaya’ or the expression in motion should be felt like a warm feeling coursing through her body. In the ‘tilana’, she explodes into leaps and jumps, moving in all directions with the fast tempo of the music. The Bharatnatyam dancer hears the three clangs of the cymbals and knows that she has given it all. The more she visualizes this with all her senses, the more she will be able to achieve her goal. 

Athletes use visualization to help them achieve peak performance By picturing themselves flawlessly executing a difficult maneuver, they are more likely to execute the maneuver flawlessly when the time comes to actually do it. Speakers visualize in order to stay calm during speeches. 

The more real and detailed the experience is in your imagination, the more powerful the visualization will be and the sooner it will happen in your life as a reality. Repeat this a few times during the day. For extra oomph, try combining an affirmation with each visualization. The practice of visualization will help you achieve your goal. Have patience, focus on this powerful tool, and learn to enjoy the beauty of this magical resource. Go on to try building your Vision Board and using Creative Visualization and see the results!


Geetanjali Arunkumar is a writer, artist, life coach. She is the author of ‘You Are The Cake’.

A Shot In the Arm Against COVID: On Record With Gavin Newsom

After one of the most challenging years of our lives, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel—the COVID-19 vaccines are here, and my administration is working to ensure that no community is left behind.

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They are our best hope to end the pandemic. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is free, even if you’re undocumented or don’t have health insurance.

After the federal government authorized the use of the vaccines back in December, our own Western States Scientific Safety Review Group confirmed that the vaccines are safe. The Panel includes nationally acclaimed scientists, many from California, with expertise in public health.

Although supplies of the vaccine are limited right now, we’re working in close partnership with the federal government to get more vaccines into the state. And we’re working hard to build a system for swiftly and safely vaccinating Californians with equity at the forefront.

While the supply of vaccines is constrained, we’re prioritizing vaccines for the Californians most at risk–including healthcare workers, individuals 65 and older, and workers in education and childcare, emergency services and food and agriculture. That means grocery store workers, restaurant workers, farmworkers, those who work in food processing facilities and many others may now be prioritized. And we’re working to ensure that the communities most impacted by COVID-19–so often the communities of color and essential workers who have been sustaining us through this crisis–can access the vaccine.

We’re investing in community-based organizations and partnering with trusted messengers who have been providing critical services and information to California’s diverse communities during the pandemic so that they can help educate, motivate and activate people to get vaccinated when it’s their turn. We’re also building messaging through a public education campaign, creating in-language content with cultural humility and meeting Californians where they are—literally, through the mobile vaccination sites that have deployed throughout the state to community centers, places of worship and health clinics.

Vaccination sites are being set up throughout the state, and we’re working closely with community partners to make sure that vaccines are distributed to those who have been hit the hardest by this virus.

You may see people in uniform or police protecting vaccine sites. They are here to help Californians get vaccinated and are not immigration officials.

The federal government, under President Biden, has confirmed that they will not conduct immigration enforcement operations at or near vaccine sites or clinics. You should not be asked about your immigration status when you get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Also, your medical information is private and cannot be shared with immigration officials. And, vaccinations do not count under the public charge rule.

All Californians can sign up on myturn.ca.gov to be notified when they are eligible for a vaccine. Eligible individuals in several counties, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, and San Francisco, can also use My Turn to schedule an appointment, with more counties expected to begin using My Turn for scheduling in the coming weeks. My Turn is also accessible via a toll-free hotline at 1-833-422-4255. Operators speak English and Spanish, and third-party interpretation is also available in 250+ languages. You can also ask your physician or your pharmacy about scheduling an appointment.

After you’ve been vaccinated, it’s still important to wear a mask, wash your hands often and continue to stay six feet apart to protect others in your community who have not yet been vaccinated.

I encourage every Californian to get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn. Together, we can end the pandemic.


Gavin Newsom is the Governor of California, formerly Lieutenant Governor of California, and Mayor of San Francisco. Governor Newsom is married to Jennifer Siebel Newsom. They have four children: Montana, Hunter, Brooklynn, and Dutch. Newsom has been a pioneer on same-sex marriage, gun safety, marijuana, the death penalty, universal health care, access to preschool, technology, criminal justice reform, and the minimum wage, which has led to sweeping changes when his policies were ultimately accepted, embraced, and replicated across the state and nation.

This article was first published by Ethnic Media Services.

US and India Benefit From the Same Democratic Process

Although many feel the democratic urgency of voting this election cycle in the US, it is not uncommon to hear, “My vote won’t count anyway.”

Associate Professor of Political Science at SFSU and Researcher, Jason McDaniel addresses the importance of local elections as a “foundation for democracy” and a “pathway to racial-ethnic equity.” Whether it be, city, county, or state jurisdiction, local law supersedes federal law and can more accurately represent the sentiment of its community. 

However, at the local elections in Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Leandro, your vote actually has more bang for its buck. 

Why? Because of their implementation of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).

Entrenched in the SF Voting Data, McDaniel cautions that RCV can be a contributor to the confounding nature of ballot response but its results are that of a lower democratic deficit. He finds that complexities within the SF local election and lack of information lowers voter turnout for communities of color.

The US follows the First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system, in which you vote for one candidate and the candidate who receives the most votes wins the election. At the Ethnic Media Services briefing on October 6th, McDaniel reviewed Rank Choice Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting. 

When RCV is used, candidates are ranked from 1-10 (depending on the number of candidates). If a candidate immediately has an outright majority (50 percent plus one), then that candidate is declared the winner of the election. However, if none of the candidates have an outright majority, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed based on their voters’ second choice rankings. The process continues until one candidate’s adjusted vote number hits an outright majority.

Dr. Jason McDaniel’s example of RCV from the Mayoral Election in SF (red indicates eliminated candidate)

Ranking candidates requires more knowledge of all platforms and of RCV. McDaniels comments, “Reformers who want to change democracy often overestimate what voters care about…The vast majority of voters don’t have strong preferences for more than one or two candidates.” The idea of voters having multiple informed preferences in nonpartisan, local elections is quite novel, unheard of, and is likely a barrier to participation. Research shows that it is possible to recover the loss of voter participation.

Benefits can outweigh the implications of using RCV in a few ways:

  1. This particular method of voting can mitigate “spoiler” candidates, where a candidate that may be a third choice wins an election to a split vote.
  2. The candidate that wins better represents the majority.   
  3. Voters can cast “sincere” votes, unbridled by the burden of a “wasted vote”. Independent third-party candidates can be represented by a genuine vote, but if they are dropped during the process of RCV, then another candidate with a similar platform can receive that vote.
  4. It can reduce negative campaigning because it may lie in the interest of multiple parties with resembling platforms to advocate for one another.
  5. It can reduce polarization by rewarding moderate candidates. There is no research to support this yet.

Why stop at local elections?

India, which generally employs FPTP voting, explored a version of Rank Choice Voting in electing their 14th and current President, Ram Nath Kovind. President Kovind is only the second Dalit president elected in Indian history. RCV secured a notable win for someone like Kovind, who overcame countless adversity in his path to a presidential win, while accounting for the public vote in a substantial way. After his win, Kovind addressed the Indian populace, “My win should prove that even honest people can get ahead in life.”

An ongoing dialogue around voting processes can be beneficial for our communities and for reform. If not to change the process, then to better educate everyone around us. 

Anni Chung, SF resident and CEO of Self Help for the Elderly, “Rank Choice Voting has always been a mystery to me, even now, after all these years.” 

Voting can only be effective if understood. Keep the conversation going and go out and vote this November 3rd!


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Adopting Impermanence as a COVID Response

“All conditioned things are impermanent – when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.”

-Gautama Buddha

In times of chaos and tribulation, it seems wise to refer to the teachings of those who sought to understand suffering. Impermanence is the word that comes to mind, yet humanity finds comfort in permanence. 

At the August 14th Ethnic Media Services briefing on the science behind COVID-19, doctors on the frontlines reaffirmed the motif I had been seeing – a contradictory society seeks change, yet is resistant to it.

This moment of truth in American history requires quick and consistent change. I wonder, can we rise up to the challenge?

Dr. Ashish Jha, Professor of Global Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute remarked “America may have the worst response of any country in the world, to this pandemic” and added that we were in the same position, if not worse condition than Brazil, Russia, and Turkey. Further, he stresses that success with outbreak control has nothing to do with imposing government structures, the culture of the country, or the wealth of a nation. 

Government: Russia’s authoritarian government is struggling with containment.

Culture: East Asian and European countries are dissimilar in their cultural practices but both have managed to lower their COVID rates. 

Wealth: Vietnam, a developing nation, until recently, had avoided COVID-related deaths.

“It’s tempting to look for explanations for why other countries are doing better”, cautions Dr. Jha. He logically builds to the conclusion that where we have failed is in deploying ONE action effectively across all states. That is all that is required. With one-third of the U.S. population on the brink of succumbing to the pandemic, one third already fully at risk, and one-third managing to keep the pandemic at bay, mismatched messaging is wreaking havoc. Without a coordinated response from strong federal leadership, the COVID death numbers will not plateau. 

The onus of information dissemination and access to resources lies heavily on those in positions of power but behavioral change can come from the top-down and the bottom-up. 

Impermanence. The ability to adopt thought that lasts for an undetermined period of time. 

No one wants to be in lockdown. No one wants to wear a mask outside. No one wants to continuously get tested.

Just one of these, fully implemented and enforced, could be the key to end suffering. 

Dr. Nirav Shah, Senior Scholar at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center and an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, informs his research from the positive COVID control he has seen in Asian countries where schools remain open. He notes, “Right now there is a false choice between lives and livelihood.” That choice drives contention and spreads misinformation.

What is needed to re-open safely?

Early warning systems, broad & efficient testing, effective quarantine/isolation, adequate treatment capacity, actionable data collection, and vaccines. 

He brings forth antigen testing as the cheaper, faster method to detect COVID. Cost-effective and almost instantaneous results, I am feeling more optimistic as he continues to speak.

Source: U-T reporter Jonathan Wosen

Early warning systems and actionable data collection rely on the immediate transfer of information to an online database to make it accessible. Temperature monitoring using a thermometer linked to the internet would increase the efficiency of detecting COVID hotspots and roll out timely mandates required to limit spread. Dr. Shah’s blend of technology and the pandemic is the obvious way to move forward. Daily reporting is the necessary next step.

Source: Covid Act Now

So why haven’t we already been using this technology?

“We really need to start to think about a fundamentally different approach that protects privacy and lets public health [professionals] do their job”, Dr. Shah frustratedly shakes his head.

He is moving fast and hits a wall with effective quarantine/isolation and vaccines. The U.S. has expended no energy to strategize or provided resources for isolation and most vaccines are a year out still. 

“We are not anywhere close to doing well”, ends Dr. Shah. 

It seems Dr. Shah and Dr. Jha come to similar conclusions – the United States has the resources and the intelligence to rewrite the course we have taken with regards to the pandemic.

A grim message but I leave with positive outcomes. Testing is changing and so is data collection. Mitigation and prevention of COVID is plausible.

Can we adapt? Can we change? Can we make space for impermanence in our lives to end suffering?


Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Where Is My Economic Impact Payment?

The radio crackled alive as the lines were opened to listeners. Radio show host, Raman Dhillion fielded queries from perturbed truck drivers and their families with assurance. In the front line on the war against COVID-19, the truck drivers who drive along long lonely roads to keep the essential supplies stocked during the coronavirus outbreak were anxious. What perturbed them today was not just the fear of contracting the virus but the danger of economic penury. Closed businesses and industries along with no freight at docks have seen truck drivers lose money and sleep; and worse, the rates being paid to truckers are below pre coronavirus times.

To provide economic life support to small business owners, independent contractors and workers, just like the ones on the other end of Raman Dhillon’s phone line, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act). The questions being volleyed at the radio host were about how they could benefit from the Act.How can I find out if I am eligible to get funds and how do I go about it?

Anxious questions came fast and furious from people like Bhupinder Singh, an owner-operator or someone who owns the truck he drives; Chandan, who drives a truck for someone else, and Mansi who owns a food business.

Of the more than 3.6 million truck drivers, LA Times estimates that tens of thousands trace their ancestry to India. Raman Dhillon who heads the North American Punjabi Trucking Association (NAPTA) estimates that 30% of California’s trucking industry is run by them.

The importance of keeping the truck drivers in business is clearer now than ever as essential goods need to reach the shelves of health establishments and grocery stores. Truckers need capital or liquidity to keep their wheels turning.

The Where Is My Economic Impact Payment app to be released by Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) on 17th April promises to address their questions.Additionally the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service’s new web tool, for people who don’t need to file taxes, available April 17th will allow them to register for Economic Impact Payments. (They should look for  Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here on IRS.gov. to go directly to the tool.)

At a press briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services on 8th April, IRS Information Deputy Commissioner, Sunita Lough explained what the workers like Chandan Kumar, independent operators/contractors like Bhupinder Singh and small business owners like Mansi Tiwari could expect.

Chandan Kumar Is An Employee. How Can He Get Funds?

Chandan delivers foodservice products for Saladinos of Fresno to restaurants like Subway, Round Table Pizza, Pizza Factory, Hometown Buffet, Yogurtland etc. As Shelter in Place hit California Chandan’s expenses went up and the number of paid work hours went down. At truck-stops where earlier you could get free coffee if you carried your own cup he now has to pay full price for coffee as they must use disposable cups. Food places are shut or they close early.

Chandan does deliveries really early in the morning wearing disposable vinyl gloves and carrying a sanitizer. Paid for every mile he drives, his income has reduced. Some customers like Subway, though open for business, have plummeting sales; others like Hometown Buffet are closed.

People eligible for unemployment benefits, according to IRS Information Deputy Commissioner, Sunita Lough, include , “Workers who have lost their jobs or have reduced hours of working as shelter-in-place orders are implemented will receive payments. Everyone with a valid Social Security number is eligible to receive the one-time full $1,200 payment and up to $500 for each qualifying child.

Chandan who has two children, has an adjusted gross income that falls within the prescribed salary range of: income up to $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for heads of household and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns. He is eligible to receive this one time payment of $2,200, but his wife who files a return as a dependent will not get any compensation in her own right.

Filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible. Chandan does not fall in that range.

Chandan filed his taxes for 2018, though he is yet to file them for 2019. The IRS will automatically deposit the payment to his bank account provided he has his direct deposit details on file. The IRS says he does not need to take any action. In order to receive an economic impact payment as quickly as possible, direct deposit works faster than a check in the mail.

Chandan’s parents, who receive Social Security, and in the past have not been required to file a tax return, will also receive the money. The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service’s new web tool available April 17th will allow them to register for Economic Impact Payments. (They should look for  Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here on IRS.gov. to go directly to the tool.)

Deputy Commissioner Lough warned of telephone scams and phishing attacks asking for bank accounts and social security numbers. “The IRS does not call and say that,” she said.

Additionally, if Chandan files for unemployment benefits because of his reduced income he will get much more than he normally would have. Under the plan, eligible workers will get an extra $600 per week on top of their state benefit. The maximum weekly state benefit in California is $450. If you are unemployed, partly unemployed or unable to work because your employer closed down, you’re covered under the bill. All eligible workers will get an additional 13 weeks over the state benefits (26 weeks of California) of unemployment through the state’s Employment Development Department.

Part-time workers are eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit.

If his employer didn’t lay him off but heaven forbid, Chandan has to quit because of a quarantine recommended by a healthcare provider, or if his child’s daycare is closed and he is the primary caregiver, he is covered.
On the other hand Chandan can’t quit his job of his own volition and expect to be paid. If he fears that his job as a truck driver exposes him to the virus and he would like to stop working, he becomes ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Chandan also needs to file his taxes with a social security number. If he files his taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) he would not get any benefits even if his spouse has a social security number. Everyone in the household would be denied access to the cash assistance.

Bhupinder Singh Is An Independent Contractor. What Can He Get?

Bhupinder Singh, as owner operator of his own truck, is out of luck. Mr. Powell of KP Trucking and Transport feels owner-operator truckers that form a bulk of the industry, are going to be the worst hit by the economic crisis. “They operate on the smallest profit margin. They are so busy day-to-day trying to make ends meet that owner-operators don’t have time to gauge the market, forecast financials and be more creative in generating income. They operate at the lowest rate available just to make sure they have work at all. This group is likely to go out of business. They are already stretching to make payments and are at the mercy of others to keep the business going,” he feels.

“Operating costs are high. The equipment costs are high and they are expensive to repair. It is a hard job. The trucker is on the road 16 hours of the day, and spends the weekend maintaining his truck,” Powell said.
The CARES Act has expanded unemployment benefits to include independent operators/contractors like Bhupinder Singh who weren’t previously covered by unemployment insurance, such as self-employed, temporary workers, part-time workers, freelancers, contract workers, and gig economy workers. The IRS will use the information on their Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 to make Economic Impact Payments to them of benefits as per their forms.

Singh has a choice to file as a self-employed individual, independent contractor or a small business entity. If he applies for unemployment benefits he will also likely be asked whether he can telework with pay, in which case he would have been ineligible. But as a truck driver he really can’t work from home.

But self-employed folks like Singh, including sole proprietors, and individual contractors working full-time, part-time or other status, are eligible for two types of loans -The Payment Protection Plan (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EDIL). They could apply for the PPP, starting April 10, 2020, through banks insured by FDIC, credit unions or farm credit systems. Here is a list of approved SBA lenders.

Mansi Tiwari Is A Small Business Owner. What Can She Get?

Balvinder Singh Saini and Mansi Tiwari run Punjabi Dhaba, a roadside eatery that serves Indian food, in Bakersfield, California. At the end of their long journey, truckers stop to refuel, shower and eat at truck stops with diesel stations and facilities. Roadside eateries like Punjabi Dhaba serving Indian food are becoming more and more visible along major routes. They are mostly mom-and-pop shops run with skeletal staff. Hot lentil daal soup with whole wheat roti bread awaits the tired trucker in normal times. But these are not normal times and all eateries are shut.

Small business owners like Mansi with bills to pay, are the worst hit. They don’t want to lay off or furlough their employees, especially cooks that are hard to rehire, but they have mortgage, rent and utilities to pay.

To help small business owners retain their employees and stem the tide of unemployment, the CARES Act offers the Payment Protection Plan (PPP), while another option is the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EDIL), that goes into action when a state of emergency is declared. .

Under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), small business owners can apply to banks for eight weeks of cash-flow assistance to maintain payroll during the emergency. No personal guarantee is needed. The loan size would equal 250% of an average employer’s average monthly payroll, with a maximum amount of $10 million and maximum interest rate of 4%. The loan is due in 2 years and carries a 0.50% fixed interest rate. Loan payments will be deferred for 6 months, and the program will be available retroactively from February 15, 2020 enabling employers to rehire any recently furloughed or laid off employees.

There is a possibility that this loan may be forgiven. If the Punjabi Dhaba keeps the same number of employees for the next 8 weeks, even with some reduced pay, the loans may be forgivable as long as 75 % of the loan is spent on payroll. Payroll costs are capped at $100K per employee, annualized. Then Mansi can use the rest 25% of the loan towards payment of mortgage, rent and utilities. It can also be used to pay interest on debt obligations incurred before March 1, 2020.

She will have to apply to have her loan forgiven with documentation verifying how the money was spent. For the portion of the loan that is not forgiven, the rate and term charged would be 1 % fixed for 2 years.

Places like the Punjabi Dhaba and similar small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply for loans through their banks, starting April 3, 2020,from a list of approved SBA lenders.

Unfortunately, with a large number of businesses applying for loans some lending institutions like Wells Fargo are dithering – they are not obligated to and may be unwilling to loan, and the sheer volume of applicants is creating a delay in processing loans. . The SBA is under pressure and responses may take 3 to 4 weeks. So small businesses may have to be patient and settle for just an acknowledgement of receipt of their application for the moment…They can submit the Paycheck Protection Program loan application by June 30, 2020; however interest will continue to accrue over this period.

Mansi can also apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EDIL) for up to $2M over a 30 year term. EDIL Interest Rates are at 3.75% for small business and 2.75% for non-profits with the first month’s payments deferred a full year from the date of the promissory note. However, since requirements have changed since the announcement of the CARES Act, many small business owners who submitted applications before March 29th are reapplying for loans.

It would be prudent for Mansi to send her application in ASAP as loans are being approved on a first-come first-served basis; she can hope to get funds as long as there is still money in the pot.

What about those that are not eligible? That long list includes non-resident aliens, those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status and Temporary Protected Status, H1-B and L-1 work permit holders, truckers too busy to keep on top of paperwork, food workers who are paid in tips that are not recorded income, immigrant workers and all those that oil the wheels of the truckers to ensure a productive ride. For immigrant workers it is going to be extremely difficult to tide over this period.

The drivers make an equivalent of $15-20 an hour and only after 10 years can the trucker even make $25 an hour. Yet the truckers ply the roads delivering essential services against all odds despite the threat of infection. “We cannot have this situation be one that ossifies, that solidifies the inequality and (inability to) access capital. Access to capital is so important,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. The truckers are drowning even as they plod along. They are running out of cash as they wait for the promised loans.

Ritu Marwah wrote this story while participating in the USC Center for Health Journalism‘s California Fellowship