Seattle launched a $9 million COVID-19 relief fund Thursday that will give cash grants to undocumented immigrants unable to access federal stimulus money.
The city fund, which will accept applications until Nov. 5, adds to $40 million the state is making available to undocumented immigrants for help during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Both the city and state funds are offering $1,000 to $3,000 grants per household, and people can receive money from both.
Only a small number of Democratic governors and mayors have created such funds for undocumented immigrants.
President Donald Trump and other Republicans have strongly opposed providing relief benefits to immigrants living in the country illegally — or even children who are U.S. citizens but have an undocumented parent.
“We want to give the checks to the American people,” Trump said at a September media briefing.
Democrats and immigrant advocates argue that many who come here illegally still pay taxes and are essential workers keeping society running during the pandemic. As such, COVID-19 has taken a greater toll on their communities.
“These people are our friends, our neighbors, and our frontline workers,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan in a news release announcing the city fund.
The news release says the fund is for immigrants, not explicitly those who are undocumented. But its criteria makes that clear: Recipients must be ineligible for federal stimulus money.
They also must be 18 or older; live, work or go to school in Seattle and earn under 50% of Seattle’s median household income. A family of four, for example, would need to earn less than $41,513.
Other efforts to help immigrants are also underway. The Washington Dream Coalition, which among other organizations is partnering with Seattle to get the word out about the city fund, separately raised $2 million for undocumented immigrants. It is in the final stages of distributing $500 to $1,000 grants, according to Dream Coalition organizer Alejandra Pérez.
El Centro de la Raza has a $500,000 contract to help immigrants with housing assistance and is providing all kinds of other assistance as well, thanks to donations coming in daily from individuals and corporations, said Executive Director Estela Ortega.
“In Seattle and King County, there’s just been so much generosity and kindness,” Ortega said.
Also coming in daily: calls from people needing help to pay rent and get food, gas, diapers and other supplies. As of last week, she said, El Centro had received 12,600 calls asking for assistance.
“The demand is vast,” Ortega said, declaring herself grateful for a new fund to meet it.