By Miriam Raftery
April 16, 2020 (Sacramento) – Many undocumented workers are risking their lives serving others during the coronavirus pandemic, with jobs in healthcare, as caregivers, in the food industry, and more. Others have lost jobs due to shutdowns, but are not eligible for stimulus funds. So yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $125 million disaster relief program for undocumented immigrant worker to help their families.
The one-time aid of $500 per adult and up to $1,000 per household will be available for around 150,000 immigrants to apply starting in May. Money will be distributed through regional nonprofits.
Funds include $75 million in state disaster relief funds and $50 million raised by Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, a coalition of foundations focused on helping immigrants that includes Blue Shield of California Foundation, The California Endowment, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Emerson Collective. People interested in donating can give here.
The program is the first of its kind in the nation, according to the Governor, who stated, "California is the most diverse state in the nation. Our diversity makes us stronger and more resilient. Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis.
The $75 million disaster relief fund will serve immigrants who need help offsetting costs associated with the new coronavirus but can't apply for unemployment insurance and disaster relief because of their immigration status.
Emerson Collective President and founder Lauren Powell Jobs stated, "During this moment of national crisis, undocumented immigrants are risking their own health on behalf of the rest of us, saving lives as health care workers; caring for our loved ones; and growing much of the food we depend on.” She encouraged people who wish to help immigrants to donate.
Critics have objected to Newsom’s offer of aid to people who are in the country illegally and still have jobs. Supporters note that many of these workers are facing added costs, however, such as childcare with schools closed while parents in essential industries must continue working.
Newsom also announced Wednesday that the state is taking steps to assure that all residents, regardless of immigration status, can receive testing and treatment for COVID-19. Currently, immigrants in the country illegally can only qualify for a limited scope of Medi-Cal benefits, but can access emergency- or pregnancy-related services. Services related to COVID-19 are considered emergency services, the Governor clarified.
Providing diagnosis and treatment for everyone with COVID-19 is important to stop the spread, protect the general public, and bring California closer to the day when businesses and schools can reopen.
Read California's immigrant resource guide here.
Read the Governor’s full statement here.