California and philanthropists are teaming up to give stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants

(CNN) — California undocumented workers will receive between $500 and $1000 as part of a $125 million coronavirus disaster relief fund, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday.

“We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians,” Newsom said Wednesday. “And that’s why I’m proud as governor to be the very first state to announce a program for direct disaster assistance to those individuals.”

Newsom said that 10% of California’s workforce is undocumented. And though they paid over $2.5 billion in local and state taxes last year, they benefit from neither unemployment insurance nor the $2.2 trillion stimulus signed by President Trump.

The state will provide $75 million with an additional $50 million coming from private philanthropists — including the Emerson Collective, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, James Irvine Foundation, California Endowment and Blue Shield Foundation, Newsom said.

Totaling $125 million, undocumented individuals will receive $500 and households will receive assistance of up to $1000.

“I’m not here to suggest that $125 million is enough. But I am here to suggest it’s a good start, and I’m very proud it’s starting here in the state of California,” Newsom said.

The state’s funds will be dispersed through regional nonprofits who have experience serving undocumented communities and personal information from undocumented workers will not be required, according to CNN affiliate KTLA. It is not clear when those funds would be dispersed.

Immigrant advocacy groups lauded the state’s effort.

“This virus doesn’t discriminate — it doesn’t care about race, class, or wealth. Our response to this crisis shouldn’t either. California is leading at a time when Congress should be doing more for immigrants in #COVID19 relief efforts,” the National Immigration Law Center said on Facebook.

“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,” National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) said in a statement Wednesday.

At around 7.6 million people, unauthorized workers make up about 4.6% of the US labor force, according to 2017 data from the Pew Research Center.

While some argue that it is not the government’s responsibility to support those undocumented when American citizens are hurting financially, immigration advocates say the disproportionate effect on undocumented workers is a wider problem.

In a public health crisis, immigration advocates say, if someone feels like they can’t miss work or can’t afford medical care, that impacts the entire community.

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