How Staples Center fund is helping concession workers, others during coronavirus shutdown: ‘Burden being lifted’

She has spent the past three weeks worrying about her health, her bills and her family’s well-being during the novel coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, Adelaide Avila’s unemployment anxiety somewhat dissipated — she received a paycheck.

“That’s a huge burden being lifted off for the time being,” Avila said.

The Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and Kings, along with Staples Center, established a fund to pay all full-time and part-time workers affected by the NBA and NHL suspending their seasons because of COVID-19.The fund is around $7 million for the 2,800 Staples Center employees, a person familiar with the terms told USA Today Sports.

The person said the fund helps the arena’s full-time employees (ushers, ticket takers, security personnel) and third-party vendors (janitors, parking lot attendants, concession workers). That person was granted anonymity since he was not authorized to discuss the terms publicly.

That fund has significantly helped Avila, who has worked as a cashier for the past 15 years. She received a check for $964 after taxes on Friday, which covered one Lakers game, two Clippers games, three Kings games and three NCAA men’s basketball regional games she would have worked if not for season suspensions or cancellations.

Her last check on March 20 was worth around $1,300 after taxes and covered games she worked before the season suspensions, as well as three Lakers games, three Clippers games and three Kings games that went unplayed. She also will receive a check to cover three Lakers games, four Clippers games and one Kings game that were scheduled between the latest pay period.

Because of those checks and additional unemployment compensation, Avila said she can afford to pay an undisclosed amount of bills to support herself, her two children and her 76-year-old mother. She said she has enough to pay her rent and for gas to make the bi-weekly drive to visit her mom. And she said she received approval to defer payments on her car, car insurance and health insurance.

“It did mean a little bit more time to focus on my mom and not be so focused on myself with what am I going to do about my rent and what am I going to do about my bills,” Avila said. “That’s a lot of pressure that relieves my mind.”

It does not relieve her mind entirely. Staples Center has not determined whether it will pay its full-time employees and third-party vendors after April 17, since the NBA and NHL have yet to officially determine whether they will cancel a potential postseason. Lineage Logistics plans to help the arena’s full-time workers and fill 260 open jobs for which Lineage is hiring in the Los Angeles area. Staples Center concession workers are employed by Levy Restaurants.

“There definitely should be that communication to make sure they’re being taken care of, no matter how long it takes,” said Maria Hernandez, a spokesperson for Unite Here Local 11, the union that represents concession workers at Staples Center, Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium. “I don’t know what they are planning on doing. But it’s great what they are doing now.”

What Staples Center and its tenants have done is more generous compared to other venues. Unite Here launched a petition for the Dodgers and Angels to emulate their approach, which had 2,259 signatures Friday morning. Nonetheless, Avila admitted, “what I’m going to get paid is not going to be enough to pay for all my expenses.”

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That explains why she has spent her free time applying for various jobs online. Avila has expressed reservations, however, because she wants to follow the social distancing rules to ensure she, her mother and children do not become infected with COVID-19.

“I am a little bit nervous about taking a position, especially when you hear people at the grocery store are now being affected,” Avila said. “Those were places I would consider to go to work. But now it’s a place I’m not sure I want to go to work. It’s a scary situation.”

She experienced that anxiety less than a month ago. She worked at the Kings-Ottawa Senators game March 11, the same day the NBA suspended play after Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronvarius. Six Ottawa players tested positive, along with two unnamed Lakers and four Nets players. That week, Staples Center had set up sanitizer stations around the arena and urged employees to employ social distancing practices.

“We were super cautious,” Avila said. “Every 15 minutes, we were wiping down counters. We wore gloves. It was a surreal scene. In the whole 15 years I’ve been to Staples Center, we’ve never had to do that before.”

As much as Avila wants to return to work at Staples Center, she won’t feel comfortable working under those conditions again. The NBA and NHL have said they are adhering to guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine whether they can salvage any of their season.

Until then, Avila is relieved that Staples Center and its tenants have eased her anxiety for a few extra weeks.

“I’m grateful to be safe, grateful for my health and grateful for the teams that helped us in this time of need,” she said. “Hopefully we can get back to work soon.”

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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