Undocumented immigrants in the State of California can begin applying for financial assistance starting today.
Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the $125 million coronavirus disaster relief fund to support undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for unemployment benefits and federal stimulus checks due to their immigration status.
It is the first state funding effort focused on helping undocumented immigrants as the pandemic causes financial deprivation and spurs unemployment across the United States.
“Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis,” Newsom said in a statement released in April. “We are all in this together.”
According to Newsom’s office, the one-time benefit will provide $500 of support per adult, with a cap of $1,000 per household. The fund combines $75 million in state donations with $50 million from private philanthropists and is expected to benefit about 150,000 undocumented adults.
California has distributed the disaster relief funds to 12 nonprofit organizations that have experience serving immigrants, and individuals can start applying for assistance by contacting those organizations directly on Monday.
The applications will be accepted until the 30th of June or until the funds run out.
In Newsom’s initial announcement, undocumented workers are overrepresented in many of the sectors deemed essential and that is keeping the state afloat, including health care, agriculture and food, and construction, manufacturing, and logistics.
About 10% of California’s workforce is undocumented, Newsom added. And though they paid over $2.5 billion in local and state taxes last year, they benefit from neither unemployment insurance nor the $2.2 trillion stimulus signed by President Donald Trump.
Private donors to the $50 million philanthropy effort include the Emerson Collective, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, James Irvine Foundation, California Endowment, and Blue Shield Foundation.
“I’m not here to suggest that $125 million is enough. But I am here to suggest it’s a good start, and I’m very proud it’s starting here in the state of California,” the Governor said.
This measure is likely to draw criticism from groups that oppose illegal immigration, who argue that it is unfair to offer financial assistance to immigrants who have broken the law.
While there are arguments that it is not the government’s responsibility to support the undocumented immigrants when American citizens are hurting financially, immigration advocates say the disproportionate effect on undocumented workers is a bigger problem.
Based on 2017 data from the Pew Research Center, around 7.6 million unauthorized workers make up about 4.6% of the US labor force.