The Washington Immigrant Relief Fund is up and running! Legal Voice has been an active member of the coalition that has stood up this $40M relief fund through advocacy with Governor Inslee’s office. This is a critical source of low-barrier financial relief for immigrants financially impacted by COVID-19, and left out from the key financial assistance programs that have allowed so many community members to survive during these difficult times—namely unemployment insurance and the federal stimulus checks.
The Relief Fund being offered by the State of Washington is crucial for undocumented workers in our
state. Washington is home to nearly 250,000 undocumented immigrants and nearly 100,000 in the Seattle region. They work in low wage, service industry jobs where women are heavily represented including domestic work, hotel housekeeping, office cleaners, restaurants and retail. They also include agricultural jobs the fields and warehouses that help feed Washington residents while being essential to the state economy. Immigrant workers pay taxes contributing nearly $300 million to the state’s coffers. And the hundreds of thousands these workers pay in social security and Medicaid’s and unemployment taxes they don’t receive back due to their ineligibility for these programs unlike workers with status.
Such immigrant workers are among the most impacted by the near depression crisis caused by COVID-19. Service workers like janitors and hotel housekeepers have been decimated by the shift to all remote offices and the virtual end of tourism and business travel right now. Agricultural workers have been fraught with safety issues by employers who refuse to provide basic safety measures like masks and social distancing--that resulted in summer strikes in Yakima fruit warehouses. Such workers are not eligible for the federal stimulus payments; they are ineligible for unemployment. These two economic measures have been linchpins of allowing workers in U. S. to survive this crisis.
The Washington State Covid19 Immigrant Relief Fund (WIRF) is meant to be a low -barrier program of emergency financial help. People can receive the funds if they are:
• a Washington resident
• at least 18 years old
• have been significantly affected by the pandemic (such as losing work, being infected by the virus, or caring for a family member who was infected)
• and not eligible to receive federal stimulus funds or unemployment insurance because of their immigration status
People receive a $1,000 one-time direct payment (up to $3,000 per household). Applicants information will never be voluntarily shared with the government or ICE, and the public charge rule should not apply for this fund.
To apply by phone or if you have questions about applying call: 1-844-724-3737 between 6am-9pm. Application assistance is available in multiple languages at this phone number.
To apply online go to: www.immigrantreliefwa.org. The application is available in multiple languages [ including Chinese (Simplified), English, French, Garifuna, Hindi, Korean, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog/Filipino & Vietnamese]
These programs are lifelines. But as we know a one-time $1000 checks are critical but not nearly enough to sustain a family during this crisis given the cost of living — they are band-aids. In that light Legal Voice continues to work on the next phase of the coalition effort, which is to pass an unemployment program at the state level for undocumented residents and possibly others who are ineligible for unemployment, like persons with limited work history including recently released prisoners and immigration detainees. We will keep the community informed about this important effort!