House Cleaners and Nannies Hit Hard by Pandemic

House cleaning lady with supplies

Image via Shutterstock

By Giselle Balido

April 9, 2020

With little or no resources to keep them economically afloat, nannies, gardeners and house cleaners are suffering during the crisis as some think of them as nonessential.

When the family she cleaned house for was sent home from work due to the coronavirus pandemic, Marylin Ojeda’s services were no longer needed. After 10 years she, too, was sent home. This is especially difficult for Marilyn, who suffers from diabetes and hypertension. But what really breaks her heart is that this year she will not be able to travel to her native Cuba.

“Every year in May I travel for the birthday and anniversary of my child’s death. He was born on May 15 and died on May 18, 12 years ago, [when he was] 12” says the Kendall, Florida resident. “That situation has me depressed. I have chest pain, anxiety.”  

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But Marylin is only one of many. As tens of thousands of men and women continue to be laid off across the country or are working reduced hours due to the threat of coronavirus, domestic workers –nannies, gardeners and house cleaners- are among the hardest hit economically by the global pandemic. Many have found themselves suddenly laid off without pay and little or no resources to put food on the table or pay their bills. This adds another layer of anxiety to a segment of the population already stressed by fear of the disease. 

As in the case of María Fabiola González, a 22-year-old from Costa Rica who has been living in Miami for close to two years. About a year ago, she started working as a nanny for a couple with a small child. But when they began working from home, she was let go indefinitely. “It’s really hard because we count on that money to pay rent, food and some other [necessities]”, says Fabiola, who rents a room in Miami with her mother. “Now I don’t have that money and we need to try to find another way to get it. Of course, it’s really hard.” So, to make ends meet, Fabiola and her mother, who is an excellent seamstress, have started making cloth masks from home. 

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Antonio Ramos, a gardener from Homestead, has seen his business dwindle dramatically, perhaps not only from homeowners’ fears of contagion but because with so many of them laid off from work, tending to the lawn has fallen off the list of priorities. Ramos, who has an autistic child, worries about staying afloat during the crisis, and whether he’ll be called back to work once it is over. “The anxiety level is running high,” he says. 

Looking for Lifeline

Left adrift in an uncertain economic future, some of these hard-working people desperately need an economic boost to keep going until things get back to normal. 

  • They are calling their banks, utility companies, internet service providers, etc., for an extension of their payments (each institution has different policies, so it’s important to be very clear how much extension time each provides). 
  • Others are contacting agencies such as United Way to seek assistance in finding food, paying housing bills or other essential services. 
  • Another, the National Domestic Workers Alliance provides $400 in support for qualifying home care workers, nannies and house cleaners experiencing financial hardship. Assistance from the fund is to help them stay home and safe during the pandemic. 
  • The Betancourt Macias Family Scholarships Foundation is helping out undocumented families financially during the coronavirus crisis, in accordance with the donations it receives.
  •  And organizations such as WhyHunger  1-800-548-6479 and Feeding America provide food for those in need through their websites. Both can be accessed in English and in Spanish.
  • Those experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety and grief can call a 24-hour bilingual hotline available to all Floridians. Florida Blue and New Directions Behavioral Health’s helpline is toll-free and connects individuals with licensed clinicians free of charge in both English and Spanish. This service is available to those who do not have insurance or have coverage with another health plan. It can be reached at 833-848-1762.



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