The City of Seattle has launched the $9 million Seattle COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund for Immigrants, its newest program to help vulnerable residents who have been both financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and purposely neglected by the federal government.
“The Trump administration has continually failed workers and families across the U.S.,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “This President did nothing as the pandemic swept across the nation killing thousands. And then he egregiously shut out taxpaying immigrants and their families from financial aid. No matter your immigration status, hard-working American families who pay taxes deserve access to financial assistance, so they can continue to meet their basic needs during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These people are our friends, our neighbors, and our frontline workers. That’s why I am proud to have joined with the Council to develop a cooperative solution to address the urgent needs of our immigrant families.”
Passed earlier this year, the CARES Act provided “Economic Impact Payments” to income-eligible households. However, these stimulus checks were denied to both undocumented workers and to U.S. citizen children with one or more undocumented parents. This policy withheld cash support to over 130,000 U.S. citizen children in Washington state. Additionally, many immigrants are barred from receiving unemployment insurance, despite paying into this fund.
That’s why on August 21, 2020, Mayor Durkan, Council President M. Lorena González, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, and Councilmember Tammy Morales announced a joint $45 million COVID-19 relief package. Of this package, Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) received $9 million in new funding from the City’s general fund.
This allocation will help Seattle’s vulnerable immigrant workers and households who have experienced economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Researchers estimate Seattle’s impacted immigrant population at around 150,000 people, including children.
“During this crisis, we have a responsibility to take care of our most vulnerable neighbors, regardless of their immigration status,” said Council President González. “Undocumented immigrants pay into our local and state tax system, they’re a part of our economy and communities, yet are qualified for few benefits when they need it most. This has to change, and the City of Seattle is stepping up to ensure we provide equitable safety nets and resources for our immigrant families and neighbors.”
Of the $45 million in joint relief funding, $7.94 million is utilized for direct cash assistance to low-income immigrants and $700,000 is specified for the program’s language accessible outreach campaign, which includes contract partnerships with local nonprofit community-based organizations. The remaining $360,000 is for program administration and staffing costs. The program’s organizational partners include:
Most of these organizations are able to offer in-language assistance over the phone for those needing help filling out the application. More information about this can be found here.
The nonprofit organization Scholarship Junkies (SJ) will be administering the online application process. They already have deep experience from helping manage the logistics for the grassroots COVID-19 Relief Fund for Undocumented Individuals in Washington State in partnership with the undocumented youth-led Washington Dream Coalition.
“We’re so honored to be a part of this initiative with OIRA and our community partners,” said Scholarship Junkies President and CEO David Coven. “We learned so much from working with the Washington Dream Coalition and immigrant justice advocates from all over the state. And we look forward to an equitable, accessible, and secure granting process.”
In order to identify fraud, Scholarship Junkies has developed several mechanisms to screen and check applicants to spot discrepancies, which includes a thorough application review process, spam filters, and address verification. SJ staff may also be contacting applicants via phone or text if they detect application issues.
The relief fund is open to Seattle area immigrants who meet income eligibility requirements and were ineligible for federal CARES Act Economic Impact Payments (also known as a “coronavirus stimulus check”). The review process is not first-come, first-served. To support those with the most need, the program is prioritizing applicants based on a set of vulnerability criteria. Each eligible adult applicant filing for themselves is able to receive a one-time payment of $1,000. Couples, parents, or caregivers with children are eligible to receive a one-time payment of up to $3,000. The online application has been translated into seven languages and is accessible here: seattlecovidfund.com.
The fund has started accepting applications at and will close on Thursday, November 5 at 11:59 p.m. For more information, please visit the OIRA program page here.
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