Undocumented workers can now apply for financial relief from the Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund
We’re over seven months into the COVID crisis, and undocumented workers in our state still haven’t seen any form of government relief — but that’s about to change. Today, undocumented workers can begin applying for the Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund, which will provide long-overdue direct financial relief to undocumented immigrants who have been barred by federal rules from receiving stimulus checks and unemployment insurance.
This new relief fund comes as the result of months of relentless organizing by a broad coalition of undocumented immigrants and more than 400 community organizations across our state. After sustained pressure from the coalition demanding emergency relief, Governor Inslee agreed to an initial commitment of $40 million in funding to provide direct cash assistance to undocumented immigrants, who have been excluded from federal relief programs and unemployment insurance.
Undocumented workers in Washington can now apply to receive a one-time direct payment of $1,000 (with a maximum of $3000 per household). Applications will close on December 6, 2020.
The Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund is managed by the same coalition of community organizations who called for its creation, not by the government. The only people with access to an applicant’s personal information are Scholarship Junkies (the community organization that manages the fund), Fair Work Center, and Seattle Credit Union (the organizations that distribute the money). This information will never be voluntarily shared with the police, the government, or ICE. Assistance from this fund is considered one-time disaster relief and should not be considered under the public charge rule — receiving money from this fund should not impact a person’s ability to get a green card. Eligible workers can complete the application online, over the phone, or by mail, and the application is available in multiple languages.
This relief fund is an important step forward in addressing the glaring exclusion of undocumented workers from COVID relief efforts. Washington now joins California and Oregon as the only three states to provide financial support to undocumented workers during this crisis.
But while the $40 million fund will put much-needed relief money into the hands of tens of thousands of immigrant workers across our state, it doesn’t come close to meeting the actual level of need in the community. More than 250,000 undocumented immigrants call our state home — and, from the start, the coalition has been calling for a commitment from the state of at least $100 million.
And we know that one-time cash assistance simply isn’t enough. All workers — regardless of immigration status, regardless of what kind of work they do, and regardless of where they live — need access to strong safety nets that guarantee economic security, especially during times of crisis.
To make that a reality, the coalition is calling on the Governor and the state legislature to take action and create a permanent income support system for undocumented workers and others excluded from unemployment benefits, including many gig workers, domestic workers, and farmworkers.
The creation of the Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund has shown that it’s possible to set up a statewide system that provides government emergency relief to undocumented workers. Now, we need our elected leaders to commit to designing and funding a permanent system. Immigrant workers are invited to share their thoughts about what that system should look like in this community survey, available in both English and Spanish.
Together, we’ll make sure that all workers in our state get the support and relief they need — during this crisis and beyond.