California will give $500 in aid to undocumented immigrants

California will become the first state to give financial aid to undocumented workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that the state will give $500 to undocumented immigrants in the state who were not eligible for aid from the federal government’s $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.  

Newsom said the aid will be covered by a combination of taxpayer and charitable dollars: $75 million will come from state funds while a group of charities has committed to raise another $50 million. 

“Our diversity makes us stronger and more resilient. Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis. We are all in this together,” Newsom said. 

Recipients will get a one-time cash benefit of $500 per adult, with a cap of $1000 per household. Individuals can apply beginning next month. 

The aid is coming as undocumented workers across several industries, including the agricultural sector, are being bypassed for financial help despite being considered essential workers. Some officials have urged Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to grant agricultural laborers additional economic support  in the next relief package and to temporarily shield them from deportation.

California has an estimated 2 million undocumented immigrant residents. Newsom said they make up 10% of the state’s workforce paid $2.5 billion in state and local taxes last year. 

Advocates praised the state’s action. 

“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,” tweeted the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy group focused on immigration issues. 

On the opposite coast, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he wasn’t ready to commit to similar aid since New York is facing a huge budget shortfall. 

“We’re looking at it but we have real financial problems right now,” Cuomo said during his Thursday news briefing, adding the federal government should step in and help. 

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