Unemployment Benefits For The Undocumented

The DRAI fund helps Californians ineligible for the CARES Act due their citizenship status.

Q: I have lost my job because of the virus. I am not permitted for work even though I have lived here 10 years. My wife lost her job because she has to care for the kids. They tell me that I can’t get unemployment, but I read that I can get a check from California. Can I? Can my wife? Thanks.

A: Dear Arturo, this virus has harmed so many people and its impact seems to fall hardest on one of the hardest working populations: immigrants. As Governor Newsom recently stated, “California is the most diverse state in the nation. Our diversity makes us stronger and more resilient … Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis. We are all in this together.”

The Federal Government, through legislation, created a “stimulus program” under the CARES act which gave one-time payments of up to $1,200 per person, $2,400 per household, and up to $500.00 per qualifying child. This relief is only available to people with permission to work in the U.S.

Governor Newsom, through an executive order, created the Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants (DRAI) project which has authorized up to $75,000,000 in state funding to go to undocumented Californians affected by the novel coronavirus. An additional $50,000,000 is being raised through private contributions. Eligible applicants can receive up to $500 per adult, with a maximum of $1,000 per household.

A person is eligible if they can provide information demonstrating first that they are an undocumented adult (person over the age of 18); second, are not eligible for federal COVID-19 related assistance, like the CARES Act tax stimulus payments or pandemic unemployment benefits; and third, that they have experienced a hardship as a result of COVID-19.

To be eligible you must provide information and documentation to verify your identity, home or mailing address, and to demonstrate that you have been impacted by COVID-19 (showing you lost your job, couldn’t work because of caring for an sick relative or a child who couldn’t go to school, a member of your household lost their job affecting the ability to pay for the rent, food, etc.).

The program and funds are being administered by 12 nonprofits throughout the state. In the Bay Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara) the program is being administered by Catholic Charities of California which can be reached at (866) 490-3899 and online at cceb.org (Alameda and Contra Costa), at catholiccharitiessf.org (Marin, San Francisco & San Mateo), and at catholiccharitiesscc.org (Santa Clara). They can provide additional information on eligibility and help you make an application.

People are often afraid that receiving public funds may make them a “public charge” and affect their ability to gain legal status or subject them to deportation. According to the State of California’s website, “This disaster relief assistance is not means-tested and is one-time assistance. The Federal Government does not list this assistance as a public benefit for a public charge consideration.”

The information you provide to the nonprofit organization will only be used to confirm your eligibility and provide the assistance to you. The nonprofit organizations will provide general information (e.g. age, gender, preferred language, etc.) to the state, but none of your personal information (e.g. name, address, etc.) will be given to any government agency. Money will be distributed through the non-profit agency in the form of “payment cards” which will function like debit cards.

You should apply immediately if you qualify as the money will run out fast. Arturo and everyone else, this is a time for coming together and supporting each other, we are all one family. Stay safe and be kind everybody.

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