California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced a $125 million fund that will assist undocumented residents who are shut out of federal pandemic relief, with individuals eligible for $500 payments and families eligible for up to $1,000 payments. “Newsom said that the disaster assistance program would be jointly funded by the state, to the tune of $75 million, and philanthropic partners, who will donate $50 million,” The Sacramento Bee reported.
“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,” he said in an ABC News video, likely referencing undocumented farmworkers who were deemed “essential workers” by the federal government but aren’t getting federal relief. “And that’s why I’m proud as governor to be the first state to announce a program for direct disaster assistance to those individuals.”
The funding could likely help Marcos Saul Aurora Gonzalez, a day laborer in San Francisco. He told KTVU that he and his partner, a housekeeper, have been out of work for a month now. “Last weekend, Gonzalez said unless he got some help, his money would run out by the end of the week, which would be catastrophic,” KTVU reported. “However, in the last few days, Gonzalez has been able to find work cleaning hotel rooms and has been the beneficiary of some individual Bay Area nonprofits and residents who have wanted to help him.”
A recent survey found that 94% of domestic workers said their clients canceled on them due to pandemic concerns, with 70% saying they have no idea if they’ll have a job after this crisis ends. That includes Melissa, a home health worker in Florida who said she got to work on a Monday and was told by her client that her last day would be Friday. “’I don’t want any strangers coming in,’ she said. That included me. ‘What do you want me to do?’ I asked. ‘When everything is under control, I’ll call you,’ she said. I haven’t heard from her since,” Melissa described in The New York Times.
While California’s fund will not cover the entire undocumented population in the state, it goes further than anything the federal government, with all its resources, has done for these families, and should become an example for all states. Undocumented people are a part of their communities, too. “The governor said the state’s efforts are not limited just to direct financial relief for undocumented immigrants,” The Bee continued.
“Newsom said that he is allowing undocumented immigrants to have presumptive eligibility, through the state’s Medi-Cal system, to get tested at community clinics, allowing those clinics to get reimbursed not just for the test, but also treatment related to COVID-19.” Added Newsom, according to The Bee: “This is a good health strategy, and it’s the right moral and ethical, and I would argue economic, thing to do.” Many folks appeared to agree: a #RecallGavinNewsom trending topic on Twitter turned into messages of support for the funding.