COVID-19 has created unexpected challenges for people all across the globe, and the City of Seattle has made an effort to contribute toward a solution for all, regardless of their background or citizenship status.
Through the creation of a new financial aid program, those who could not access the CARES program finally have an opportunity to receive much needed financial assistance. This program will give $9 million to help immigrant residents impacted by COVID-19.
The denial of stimulus checks to both undocumented workers and to U.S. citizen children with one or more undocumented parents has left over 130,000 U.S. citizen children in Washington state alone, without financial support.
“Those who were not able to access this assistance due to their immigration status will finally have at least some resources to put towards paying for their rent, healthcare, food, or whatever other expenses they might have. As we all know, we are in the middle of a health crisis and an economic crisis,” said Oksana Bilobran, Legal Defense Policy and Program Specialist for the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.
This program has received a lot of support with many organizational partners that are helping to spread the word about the opportunity for aid. Due to the fact that the program is not on a first come first served basis, there are various requirements that must be met in order to ensure that the aid is going towards those who need it most.
As of last Friday, there were about 18,000 applications submitted and this number is expected to grow closer to the application deadline of November 5. The program is competitive in the sense that there are more people in need of funding than there are funds to give out.
“COVID-19 has hit immigrant families hard in Seattle,” said Michael Itti, executive director of Chinese Information and Service Center in Seattle. “We know that essential workers, nurses, people working in restaurants, many of them are experiencing a lot of difficulty right now. When COVID-19 hit, we received a lot of phone calls for unemployment assistance, especially for those restaurant workers who work in the Chinatown International District. This program is important for providing support to these immigrant families.”
While many people are aware that immigrants are a vital aspect of the Seattle community, this financial aid program puts that awareness into action. With an ultimate goal of assisting the immigrant community members who need it most, there is still a conscious awareness of the fact that not everybody who applies for funding through this particular program will be able to receive it.
Although the $9 million financial aid program to help immigrant residents only applies to immigrants who reside or work in the city of Seattle, there are various other programs and resources for those who do not qualify for this aid program.
“There is a similar state-wide fund that is much larger, $40 million dollars, available to workers who live in Washington who similarly were unable to access either stimulus CARES money or unemployment,” said Bilobran. “The city currently has a number of programs that assist with rent or food vouchers, so this program is meant to help those, mostly undocumented to get the help that they need during these times.”
Financial hardship has become a more prominent and exacerbated issue in society since COVID-19 has changed the way that people work and live. The importance of compassion for community members as well as a heightened awareness of programs and opportunities for aid have become more crucial than ever.
Multiple organizations with a main goal of supporting immigrant residents have partnered with this financial aid program in order to spread the word and provide help for community members who need it most and who were excluded from the initial CARES act.
Itti from CISC said that their organization has received over 100 calls about this financial aid program, proving that the word is getting out; however, it is important to note that many of the intended recipients are hard to reach because they are busy working multiple jobs and trying to manage numerous challenges right now.
Common struggles such as paying rent, putting food on the table and raising children have become even more difficult in the face of a global pandemic. Immigrants and their families who have a disadvantage in regards to receiving governmental support need it now more than ever. Because of this, the reliance on community and connections is essential for overcoming the adversity faced during these trying times.
“Communities of immigrants tend to be tight, they rely on word of mouth and talking to each other, so we know that the word is getting out for support,” said Bilobran.