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California’s devastating wildfires have made it harder for some day workers to find employment

Emily Elena Dugdale Jan 1, 2019
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The ruins of an ocean view home are seen in the aftermath of the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California.
DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images

Recent devastating wildfires burned down more than 300 homes in Malibu, California — one of the wealthiest cities in California. Many homeowners there employed gardeners and housekeepers who lost their jobs.

Oscar Mondragόn, the director of the Malibu Community Labor Exchange, where day workers find work, says it’s too early to tell how many workers were affected by the recent fires. But he’s been inundated with calls from workers who lost their jobs, asking for help.

A model for how to help could be 30 miles away in Oxnard, California. Genevieve Flores-Haro is the director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project. After a huge fire last year, she raised over $2 million from private donors and foundations to start a fund that gives small grants to workers affected by the fires.

The program helped about 900 workers. The average check was about $1,600. Flores-Haro said the program is critical because many workers are undocumented and can’t access federal disaster programs like FEMA or open a bank account — which makes getting quick cash a problem.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story.

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