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Washington begins financial assistance to undocumented workers hurt by the recession

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement about the relief fund: “The pandemic continues to impact all aspects of life for Washingtonians, and we need to remain steadfast in our support of those bearing the greatest burden.”
Ted S. Warren
/
The Associated Press
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement about the relief fund: “The pandemic continues to impact all aspects of life for Washingtonians, and we need to remain steadfast in our support of those bearing the greatest burden.”";s:

Washington state’s $40 million COVID-19 relief fund for immigrants is open to applications. It’s intended to help undocumented workers who have been hurt financially in the pandemic.

There are an estimated 230,000 undocumented immigrants living in Washington. But they’re not eligible for unemployment benefits and were excluded from receiving federal stimulus checks earlier this year. Under the state’s new fund, immigrants who qualify can receive $1,000 and a maximum of $3,000 per household. People can apply through Dec. 6 and benefits will be distributed by Dec. 28, the governor’s office said in a statement.

Kamau Chege is with the Washington Census Alliance, one of the groups that advocated for the creation of the fund and that’s now helping immigrants to apply for the assistance. Chege said when undocumented immigrants are left out of economic stimulus programs, it hurts the broader economy.

“That kind of ripple effect is what we want to prevent, so we’re not in a downward spiral toward a deeper recession, so we’re actually recovering together with everyone on board and no one left behind,” he said.

Chege and other advocates had pushed for $100 million in relief assistance. He said the $40 million is not enough, but called it a “down payment” toward making sure that everyone has the help they need to get through the pandemic.

Before the state came through with its assistance, community groups fundraised to help undocumented immigrants who were struggling with job loss or reduced work hours. Alejandra Pérez, an organizer with the Washington Dream Coalition, said her group raised $6 million to provide support, but discovered “our grassroots efforts were unfortunately not going to be enough.”

She said policy approaches such as the state’s eviction moratorium have helped people, but they still need financial assistance.

“Folks’ rent is accumulating, folks’ mortgage payments are accumulating and I don’t think any of us predicted that this pandemic was going to take even more than two months and here we are in October 2020 when this started in March,” she said.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.