Undocumented Immigrants May Get More Stimulus Payments From Gov. Newsom
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Photo by Max Rivlin-Nadler
North Park resident Luis had been out of work since being laid off from a restaurant March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic.
Luis, who asked that his full name not be used because he is undocumented, was one of the 100,000 undocumented people who got an emergency $500 debit card from the state at the beginning of the pandemic.
Since then, he hasn’t received any further support from the government, even though he paid taxes in the United States for six years. Undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for unemployment insurance.
It was tough for him to find work, even after businesses began to reopen.
“Most of the places were closed,” he said. “So it wasn’t like jobs were available.”
Luis’ husband, a U.S. citizen, was also shut out from the first stimulus check sent by the government last summer because he is married to an undocumented person. Congress changed that rule in December, allowing the household to get the full stimulus amount — and subsequent stimulus amounts.
On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new $500 round of stimulus payments for undocumented people, on top of a $600 payment approved by the legislature earlier this year that it’s in the process of sending out.
Luis said if he was to receive the total $1,100, he would save it. Because he still doesn’t have access to unemployment insurance.
“If this kind of money arrives, I want to be able to save it in case something happened,” he said.
This lack of security for undocumented workers won’t be solved by these checks, says Lucas Zucker, with the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy. His group has been pushing for larger checks to the state’s two million undocumented people, while the state runs a huge budget surplus.
“A one-time $500 payment; it’s important and it’s needed. But it’s not even enough to make one month’s rent for folks who are really struggling with job loss and have nowhere to turn,” he said.
Luis has gone back to work in recent weeks, at a different restaurant from his old one — often working more than 45 hours a week. He’s watched as his old co-workers have been supported all year by unemployment insurance.
“To get nothing all year," he said. "It makes me feel angry, it makes me feel like less.”
He’s hoping that California will use some of its record-breaking tax surplus to better compensate undocumented workers like himself.
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