While the federal government is blocking any attempt at relief for undocumented immigrants, California has once again reaffirmed its commitment to the community.
Starting this past Tuesday, undocumented Californians will be able to begin applying for disaster assistance payments of $500 per person and up to $1,000 per household, according to the Los Angeles Times.
After Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month a $125 million coronavirus disaster relief fund to support undocumented immigrants who were left out of federal stimulus packages, California has become the first state to recognize the importance of preserving the well-being of all its citizens.
“Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis,” Newsom said in a statement in April. “We are all in this together.”
The fund combines $75 million in state donations with $50 million from private philanthropists, and is expected to benefit about 150,000 undocumented adults, according to the state’s website.
According to CNN, California has distributed the funds to 12 nonprofit organizations that have experience serving immigrants, and individuals can apply for assistance by contacting those organizations directly beginning on Monday.
Applications will be accepted until June 30 or until funds run out.
To qualify, applicants must demonstrate that they are not eligible for federal assistance programs stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, such as the CARES Act or federal unemployment benefits, and that they have endured hardship as a result of the pandemic.
However, within days of the process, the phone lines of organizations are already overloaded.
“We knew the number of applicants would be high, but we were just overwhelmed,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, to the New York Times.
In the first 90 minutes, 630,000 calls were placed to the organization’s hotline, jamming the phone line. The nonprofit took some calls on its normal office number until the hotline was restored three hours later, with an additional number added.
Among the 10.6 million undocumented people living in the United States, California has two million, more than any other state.
“We know that money is limited and doesn’t reflect the amount of taxes that the undocumented pay in California,” said Olimpia Blanco, a coordinator at Carecen, one of the organizations helping with signups. “We believe we owe it to the community to make the process as equitable as possible and uphold the first-come, first-served nature of it.”