California Just Became the First State to Offer Coronavirus Cash to Undocumented Workers

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California will be the first state to provide financial assistance to undocumented immigrants affected by the coronavirus pandemic, in what advocates are calling a “necessary first step” to prevent families from falling deeper into a crippling financial crisis.

In a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the creation of the Disaster Relief Fund, which will give approximately 150,000 undocumented adults in California a one-time cash payment of $500, with a $1,000 cap per household. The fund will draw on $75 million from the state government and an additional $50 million from Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, a network of foundations focused on immigration issues.

“Regardless of your status, documented or undocumented, there are people in need, and this is a state that steps up always to support those in need,” Newsom said. “We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people who are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians.”

Undocumented workers—including the estimated 4.6 million of them who file income taxes every year—were left out of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package passed by Congress last month. They don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. 

California has the largest undocumented population in the United States, according to Pew Research Center estimates. Half of all California children are born to a household that has at least one person who is undocumented, and about 10 percent of the total workforce in the state is undocumented, Newsom said. 

“This is a recognition of the fact that immigrant families are essential to our state,” Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), said in a statement. “Immigrants are one-third of the workers in California who are in the front lines fighting COVID-19 and their loved ones are hurting from this pandemic, yet the federal government has ignored them.”

The cash assistance will be dispersed through “a community-based model” of regional nonprofits that serve undocumented communities in the state. Newsom said people can apply for aid starting next month.

“Today’s announcement is a necessary first step to close the widening gap between immigrants and vital assistance that could mean the difference between life and death for millions of Californians,” said Pablo Alvarado, co-director of the National Day Laborer Organization Network. “Our hope is that the actions taken by Gov. Newsom today will catalyze public and private partnerships to encourage additional measures to ensure that all people in California—regardless of immigration status—receive equal protection under the law.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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