As it turns out, Villacorta was just a couple days ahead of the rest of the Bay Area, and two weeks ahead of the entire state, where millions of workers are now in the same boat. For now, she's safe from eviction, because Alameda County recently announced it would temporarily stop enforcing evictions while residents are ordered to shelter in place.
“For the next couple of weeks we will be fine, but after that we will need to go back out for food and figure out how to eat,” Villacorta says. “That’s my biggest issue long term — just essentially eating.”
Like a significant proportion of workers in California, Villacorta can't work from home, doesn't have enough savings to last more than a few weeks and was only able to accrue three paid sick days, the state minimum.
A recent UC San Francisco survey of 100,000 retail and service workers found that over 60% did not have the resources to weather a single $400 surprise expense.
In fact, it’s somewhat miraculous that Villacorta has any savings at all. She has been struggling to break even ever since graduating from UC Berkeley in 2016 with a degree in environmental science.
“When I went to college to with that degree I was like jobs should be at a decent level,” Villacorta says. “I wasn’t hoping to make Google money, but I was hoping to make a livable $50K, $55K a year. But that isn’t the market I found for that degree.”
Villacorta tried to find decent-paying jobs in her field, but came up short, finding only internships that didn’t pay enough to live in the Bay Area. Along the way, she racked up $18,000 in credit card debt.
She immigrated to California from Mexico with her parents. Her mom has a job at a factory, her dad works in the hospitality industry.
Villacorta worked hard to put herself in a position to succeed. She got good grades and was accepted to UC Berkeley, the first person in her family to go to college. She thought that in light of climate change, environmental science would be a safe bet for a career and a way to do something fulfilling and positive in the world.
“I would love to be an environmental analyst,” Villacorta says. “I love policy, I love breaking it down. I like research. It is what I did in college. It's what I’d like to do again.”
For the last few years, though Villacorta's been trying to claw her way out of the financial hole she got into while preparing for her career. To stay afloat and try to chip away at her debt, she began working three jobs in catering and bartending after getting her degree.
Her parents, she says, are confused. They thought because she went to a great college, she wouldn’t have to work in a factory or the service industry like they do, and her mom repeatedly asks why she isn’t putting that expensive degree to better use.