Congress and the Trump administration have intentionally excluded undocumented immigrants from all federal pandemic support—but Washington state is finally stepping up to provide undocumented workers with financial relief.
After months of relentless organizing by undocumented workers and a broad coalition of 430 organizations, we’re celebrating a hard-fought win: Governor Inslee just announced $40 million in direct relief for undocumented workers. The newly-created Washington Worker Relief Fund will provide one-time cash assistance of up to $1000/person. With this fund, Washington joins California and Oregon as the only states to provide relief to undocumented workers.
It’s about time. The Washington Worker Relief Fund will put much-needed money into the hands of thousands of undocumented workers, who haven’t seen any government relief since the pandemic took hold in March.
Applications for individuals to receive funding are not yet open. There will be a separate sign-up process this fall to apply for funding. The Governor’s office is currently working to identify a community organization that will receive the funds and ensure that the money is equitably distributed to those who need it most. Click here to receive updates about the fund and the application process once it opens.
“The least we can do is create this worker relief fund, but it’s not the last thing we should do.” — WA State Senator & Fair Work Center board member Rebecca Saldaña
The fund will provide cash assistance for thousands of immigrant families, but the $40 million commitment isn’t enough to meet the actual need. Washington is home to more than 270,000 undocumented workers, and they’ve been excluded from hundreds of millions of dollars in economic relief during the pandemic so far, including the $1,200 stimulus checks that went out in April and the $600 additional unemployment benefits that most workers received.
Despite the fact that undocumented workers are overrepresented in the some of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic — like restaurants and hospitality — many are still facing a complete loss of income. Without any income support, many workers are left with no choice but to seek out some kind of work, despite being high-risk themselves or having family members who are high-risk — that’s a problem when it comes to controlling the spread of the virus and protecting the public health. To tackle this public health crisis effectively, all workers must have economic security.
But at its current size, the Worker Relief Fund simply won’t get emergency relief to everyone who needs it. That’s why, from the start, our coalition has been calling for at least $100 million — and it’s why we’ll continue to fight to make sure the state invests another $60 million into the fund.
Federal rules continue to bar undocumented workers from accessing unemployment insurance. These new one-time payments aren’t enough for any unemployed worker to weather this massive economic crisis. We need the Governor and the state legislature to step up and create a permanent income support system for undocumented workers.
We’ll be keeping the pressure on our elected officials and continuing to push the state to invest in a strong safety net for everyone, regardless of immigration status: all workers should have economic security, especially during times of crisis.