Puente de la Costa Sur community outreach coordinator Joaquin Jimenez stood outside the dining room at Bay City Flower Co. last week as those facing unemployment gathered around to hear what local service agencies could do to help.
Jimenez has been making the rounds since the news broke that the flower company is closing sites in Half Moon Bay and Pescadero. He greeted many workers by name and talked to them about their fears and frustrations.
The city of Half Moon Bay, San Mateo County and organizations like Puente are grappling with how to help almost 200 people who will lose their jobs in the next 45 days.
Rosa Manrriquez, who has worked for Bay City for about 40 years, spoke on behalf of more than 80 people who attended the Half Moon Bay City Council meeting on Sept. 17.
“We do not know if these people are going to find a new job soon to support their families, because these people were living check to check,” she told the council. The flower company’s property is partially in Half Moon Bay and partly in unincorporated San Mateo County. City Council members offered possible ideas to help those affected by the closure.
“The city could help with some financial support, but it has to be done in a way to aid our social service agencies,” Councilwoman Deborah Penrose said.
Jimenez and Belinda Arriaga from Ayudando Latinos a Soñar spoke at the meeting about how this will affect the city’s more vulnerable populations.
“There is fear, on top of everything going on with (the president), public charge and ICE raids, and now this in our community. So this is an emergency. How is the city of Half Moon Bay prepared for this?” Jimenez said.
There are about 11,500 jobs on the Coastside, and Bay City made up about 2 to 3 percent of the total workforce, according to Deputy City Manager Matthew Chidester. Last week, city officials met with a few representatives from social service agencies to brainstorm ways to assist. According to Chidester, there is no formal plan to hold a job fair, but it is being considered.
On top of facing unemployment, many are concerned about housing security. Moonridge, a MidPen Housing development that gives preference to agricultural workers, is home to 61 Bay City Flower employees. Some have expressed concern about losing their housing if they’re no longer working in the industry.
But Beth Fraker, vice president of marketing and communications for the company, said these residents won’t lose their housing. Half of the units give preference to households with at least one member working in agriculture. She said if that member loses a job or changes professions, it won’t impact whether they can stay in the development.
MidPen Housing is working to provide support to residents through rental assistance, guidance on filing for unemployment, food distribution, and finding new employment.
In the past, Supervisor Don Horsley said the county has provided funding to Puente and Coastside Hope to help people find new housing.
“We’ll provide whatever kind of support we can to make sure people don’t lose their housing,” Horsley said.
But the financial assistance would only go so far. Coastside Hope Executive Director Judith Guerrero said that just days after the company’s announced closure, a husband and wife were in her office.
“They both work at Bay City, and so both of their incomes are going to be impacted,” Guerrero said. “So they were thinking of where they were going to go next. Her husband was already looking for a part-time job.”
And the closure of Bay City is just one aspect of workers’ lives. They still face other life challenges such as taking care of elderly parents, starting a family, paying for college or trying to save for retirement.
“This is an emergency,” Jimenez said. “It’s a big hit for the Latino community.”