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The undocumented status of many residents of Planada, east of Merced, meant they were ineligible for federal aid after winter storms ravaged their town.

When an “atmospheric river” dumped torrents of rain over the Central Valley in January, the small rural town of Planada was devastated.
Hundreds of houses swelled with muddy floodwaters more than a foot deep. Cars were wrecked. Many residents couldn’t work because the fields where they were employed as farmworkers were drenched. Dozens of families lost most of their possessions and had to move into temporary shelters.
And when financial relief was made available, it fell short.
Many of the 4,000 people who live in Planada, an agricultural community nine miles east of Merced, are undocumented, as are most California farmworkers. That meant that 41 percent of the flood-damaged households in Planada were ineligible for federal disaster aid, according to an analysis by the University of California, Merced, Community and Labor Center. And nearly 60 percent of the Planada households in which at least one member lost work were unable to apply for unemployment benefits, the survey found.
For the undocumented low-income workers whom California’s economy relies on, “there’s been just so many different major public emergencies, from Covid to catastrophic wildfires to smoke and drought, and now floods,” said Edward Flores, an associate professor of sociology at U.C. Merced who co-wrote the report. “It’s clear that this is a huge gap in the economic safety net for residents of California.”
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