Coronavirus aid assistance for undocumented immigrants in California kicks off on May 18

The state is the first to financially help workers without legal status, who are excluded from receiving federal unemployment benefits and stimulus checks.
Image: Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom, discussing the reopening of businesses in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, May 8, 2020, announced the public-private Disaster Relief Fund for undocumented immigrants last month.Rich Pedroncelli / Pool via AP

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By Nicole Acevedo

Starting Monday, undocumented immigrants living in California who are ineligible for federal financial aid amid the coronavirus pandemic can apply to a new program.

Eligible immigrant families will be able to get up to $1,000 per household under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus emergency assistance plan, which was announced last month.

Newsom announced a $125 million public-private Disaster Relief Fund for California workers who do not have permanent legal status and are excluded from receiving government assistance such as unemployment benefits and federal stimulus checks during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state will contribute $75 million to the fund and philanthropic groups are expected to help raise an additional $50 million to complete the fund and support undocumented Californians.

Applications will be approved on a first-come, first-serve basis until the $75 million in state funding runs out. The California Department of Social Services estimates the funds will help close to 150,000 undocumented adults.

California is the first state in the country to provide disaster relief to undocumented immigrants as part of the COVID-19 response. Daranee Petsod, president of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, a group helping Newsom with the philanthropic fund, says unauthorized immigrants make up 10 percent of the workforce and pay about $7 billion in taxes.

Applicants must be over 18 years of age and need to show proof that they have faced financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic.

Twelve organizations will be working with the California Department of Social Services during the application process. Undocumented immigrants looking to apply should contact the organization representing the region where they live.

Over 2 million undocumented immigrants live in the state of California, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, with more than seven-in-ten from Latin America.

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