Sep 20, 2022 - News

Delayed immigrant relief fund now accepting applications

Illustration of a bag of groceries and money.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Applications are open for a new fund that will provide financial aid to undocumented immigrants in Washington state.

Why it matters: During the height of the COVID pandemic, undocumented immigrants weren't eligible for unemployment assistance or federal stimulus checks. State officials wanted to provide them with an alternate means of assistance.

Yes, but: The program has been beset by delays.

  • Although the state Legislature budgeted $340 million for the immigrant aid fund in spring 2021, that money has yet to be distributed — something that has frustrated state legislators.
  • State officials told Crosscut they had to shift focus last fall to helping an influx of Afghan refugees, which delayed deployment of the immigrant relief fund.
  • The top Senate budget writer said she hoped the money would have gone out by last fall or winter, Crosscut reported.

The latest: Undocumented immigrants can apply to receive a check or prepaid debit card through immigrantreliefwa.org. The application portal went live Monday and will remain open through Nov. 14.

  • A spokesperson for the state Department of Social and Health Services said that each eligible person will get a minimum of $1,000.
  • The total award to each person will "depend on the size of the applicant pool and other factors," the spokesperson wrote in an email to Axios.

Details: To qualify, people must be ineligible for unemployment benefits or federal stimulus payments due to their immigration status. They also must be over age 18.

  • In addition, applicants must live in Washington state and have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. That could mean losing hours at work, contracting the virus , or taking care of a family member who contracted it.
  • The online application is available in Spanish, English, Chinese, Korean or Tagalog.

What's next: People will be notified as soon as December whether their application was accepted. Checks or pre-paid cards are expected to be mailed by January 2023.

Of note: People are eligible even if they previously applied for relief and got a payment through an earlier state program.

  • The fund is run by immigrant-led community organizations who promise not to share applicants’ information with ICE or other government officials.
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