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California is offering $500 cash payments to unauthorized immigrants who don't qualify for stimulus checks or unemployment benefits

Business Insider logo Business Insider 5/18/2020 jzeballos@businessinsider.com (Joseph Zeballos-Roig)
Gavin Newsom wearing a suit and tie: Associated Press © Associated Press Associated Press
  • California is rolling out a taxpayer-funded program to aid unauthorized immigrants with $500 cash payments.
  • "Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
  • The $75 million program is expected to benefit 150,000 people, according to The New York Times.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

California is rolling out a program on Monday that will give $500 cash payments to unauthorized immigrants shut out of traditional government aid programs because of their immigration status.

The New York Times reported the $75 million taxpayer-funded program funded will be conducted by phone to reduce in-person contacts. It's expected to distribute cash to 150,000 people and the maximum amount awarded per household is $1,000.

"California is the most diverse state in the nation. Our diversity makes us stronger and more resilient," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement last month about the program. "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."

Applicants are eligible for the money if they demonstrate they are unauthorized, jobless as a result of the pandemic, and do not qualify unemployment programs or stimulus checks. Philanthropic organizations are also donating $50 million so more immigrants can benefit from financial relief.

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The state has directed the funding to 12 nonprofit organizations who will be in charge of evaluating applicants and distributing aid.

Over 2 million unauthorized immigrants live in California, according to the California Public Policy Institute, and they constitute around 9% of its labor force. Many work in low-wage jobs in hotels and restaurants hammered by the pandemic.

House Democrats approved a $3 trillion coronavirus spending package on Friday. Under one of its provisions, the legislation would allow unauthorized immigrants left out of the initial wave of $1,200 stimulus checks to qualify for a direct federal payment with their Taxpayer Identification Numbers.

But Republicans fiercely oppose it, declaring the Heroes Act dead on arrival in the Senate and the legislation is mostly symbolic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted it last week in a speech on the Senate floor.

"Another round of checks for illegal immigrants. Can you believe it?" the Kentucky Republican said. "We forgot to have the Treasury Department send money to people here illegally. My goodness, what an oversight. Thank goodness Democrats are on the case."

Around 11 million unauthorized immigrants live in the US, according to the Pew Research Center.

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