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Economics

Central America Feels the Pain of U.S. Layoffs and Lost Money Transfers

Remittances from workers abroad are expected to drop at least 10% this year.
Villagers in Guatemala’s highlands depend increasingly on food aid from the government as remittances drop.

Villagers in Guatemala’s highlands depend increasingly on food aid from the government as remittances drop.

Photographer: Moises Castillo/AP

It was mid-March and New York City was going into lockdown, shuttering businesses and schools. Gleiry Fernández, who left her native Guatemala two years ago to find work in the largest city in the U.S., was starting to worry.

Then the phone store where she worked as a customer service representative closed and laid her off. A few days later, she fell ill. A test confirmed she had the novel coronavirus. Sick and unsure when she would be able to work again, she cut back the biweekly money transfers she’s been sending to her mother and son in Guatemala.