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California’s undocumented immigrants can begin applying Monday for disaster relief payments of up to $1,000 per household under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus emergency assistance plan.

In April, Newsom announced a one-time, $75-million fund for undocumented adults who are not eligible for other forms of government assistance, such an unemployment benefits and federal stimulus checks. A qualifying undocumented adult can receive $500, with a maximum of $1,000 per household.

Since the announcement was made, many undocumented immigrants have been waiting for information to apply as soon as the application period opened.

California has more than two million undocumented immigrants. Nearly one in ten workers is undocumented.

With the funds spread among so many people, most families will not receive the funding. Applications are approved on a first-come, first-served basis, until the money runs out.

“In the best case scenario, these funds would reach one in 10 people,” said Unai Montes-Irueste, director of communications with United Ways of California.

Magdalena, 47, an undocumented essential worker who up until recently worked making face masks in a sewing factory, hopes to receive the assistance.

“I haven’t worked for about a week because my 74-year-old mother became ill and we don’t know if she has the coronavirus,” said Magdalena, who preferred not to give her last name because of her undocumented status.

Magdalena said if she receives help from the state government, she could close the gap on her lack of income, which affects her family of four.

“This money would help me pay the rent,” she said.

Another possible beneficiary is Julio Peralta, 45, a single father of a 16-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter with spina bifida.

Peralta said that none of them has a legal status in the country since they arrived in Los Angeles from Guatemala five years ago in hopes of obtaining a cure for his daughter.

“But right now with the pandemic, I already fell behind on my rent payments for April and May,” said Peralta, who is not working.

Peralta said if he receives the financial aid from the government, he would use the money to find a place to live in Los Angeles since his daughter is receiving treatment at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

“But I don’t know how it is applied,” he said.

The process of applying

Montes-Irueste of United Ways of California — which has helped undocumented immigrants without bank accounts during the pandemic — said it is important for people to know where to get help and avoid being scammed.

Called the Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants Project, the $75 million in state funding will be distributed to 12 organizations throughout California.

Additionally, the governor said $50 million would be available from philanthropy groups to be supervised through the organization Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR). However, as of Thursday, only $13 million had been collected from philanthropy through

The organizations were selected from among Immigration Services Financing contractors who have existing agreements with the state. The state Department of Social Services also selected nonprofits that have the ability to provide a high volume of application assistance services to undocumented populations in specific geographic locations.

Applications will be available until funds for each region are exhausted.


An applicant must be undocumented, over 18 years of age, ineligible for federal assistance related to COVID-19 such as the stimulus check or unemployment benefits, and able to demonstrate that they have faced financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic.

Organizations will verify the applicant’s documents to ensure they match the information provided and will make the final decisions.

To apply, undocumented immigrants should contact the group representing their area:

Northern California:California Human Development Corporation(707) 228-1338 Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Napa, Nevada, Pleasure, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma Tehama, Trinity

Bay Area:Catholic Charities of CaliforniaAlameda and Contra Costa: www.cceb.orgMarin, San Francisco, San Mateo: Clara:

Central Coast:Mixteco / Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) Barbara: (805) 519-7776Ventura: (805) 519-7774

Community Action Board Santa Cruz(800) 228-6820 Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz

Central Valley:United Farm Workers Foundation (UFWF)(877) 527-6660 www.ufwfoundation.orgCovering Ash, Kern, Kings, Wood, Merced, Tulare and Mono

California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF)(877) 557-0521 Mariposa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne Yolo and Yuba

Los Angeles and Orange County:Asian Americans Advancing Justice(213) 241-8880 www.advancingjustice-la.orgCoalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)(213) 201-8700 www.chirla.orgLos Angeles Central American Resource Center (CARECEN)(213) 315-2659

Inland Empire:San Bernardino Community Service Center(888) 444-0170, (909) 521-7535 www.sbcscinc.orgCovering Inyo, Riverside, San Bernardino

TODEC Legal Center Perris(888) 863-3291 www.TODEC.orgCovering Inyo, Riverside, San Bernardino

San Diego and Imperial CountyJewish Family Service of San DiegoImperial County: 760-206-3242San Diego County: 858-206-8281

Jacqueline García is a reporter with La Opinión. This article is part of  The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.