A portion of the City of Los Angeles' $725-million allotment from the Federal COVID-19 relief effort could go toward easing the pandemic's impacts on street vendors.
At the City Council's meeting on June 9, 7th District Councilmember Monica Rodriguez introduced a motion proposing that the City allocate $5 million in CARES Act funding to assist vendors in acquiring equipment and navigating local regulations.
"Even prior to the pandemic...food vendors in particular had reported difficulties obtaining the tools and permits required by the Los Angeles County Department of Health," writes Rodriguez. "As we move toward economic recovery, vendors are now facing steeper challenges in financing the up-front expenses necessary to vend in compliance. It is important for our collective economic recovery strategy to include resources to assist street vendors in achieving compliance to reopen their business."
The motion, which also requests a report on potential financial assistance tools for vendors, has been referred to the Council's Ad-Hoc Committee on COVID-19 Recovery for consideration.
The move from Rodriguez marks something of an about-face in the City Council's approach to street vending since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. Citing public health concerns, the Council voted to place new limits on street vending at a marathon meeting held on March 17.
Despite street vendors being commonplace in Los Angeles (the Los Angeles Times reports that there are estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 citywide), the City Council has been slow to legalize the practice. Los Angeles first moved to decriminalize street vending in 2017, fearing a potential crackdown on undocumented immigrants by the Trump administration, and then established a legal framework for merchants in late 2018. For more information on difficulties encountered by applicants for street vending permits, see Patricia Escárcega's coverage here.