In summary

Given the overwhelming demand for pandemic aid, undocumented Californians are hoping the governor will approve a second round of emergency food money. However, it is not yet clear where the funding will come from.

The line began to form at midnight, hours before the grocery bank opened at daybreak to distribute food to immigrants in the Los Angeles district of Rep. Miguel Santiago.

"Every now and then a mother with two children will lie on the floor and wait," said the Democratic legislature, sharing what inspired him to call for a new round of food aid for low-income Californians, regardless of immigration status.

"The pandemic doesn't check whether you have papers or not."

elsy perez, lives in los angeles

Help could be on the go for those who have been ordered to stay home or who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, lawmakers approved the Santiago Bill, AB 826, which would allow nonprofits like grocery banks to distribute $ 600 prepaid grocery cards to every qualified adult.

If Governor Gavin Newson signs the Food Aid Authorization Act for All, it will be the second round of emergency aid to immigrants since the pandemic broke out earlier this year. In April, California approved a one-time disaster relief program of $ 500 to 155,000 undocumented adults. This only helped about 7% of California's 2 million undocumented residents.

Santiago, whose district includes some of LA's poorest neighborhoods including Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Pico-Union and Huntington Park, admits that no funding has been identified but said immigrants were among the hardest hit by the coronavirus recession concerned belong. Although many are key workers, they are often the most food insecure and ineligible for economic assistance such as unemployment benefits.

Immigrants hope for help

Elsy Perez said it was only fair for undocumented residents to join the emergency relief program because like all other workers they pay taxes but rarely get help.

"The pandemic doesn't check if you have papers or not, and those of us who don't have a social security number couldn't get the stimulus check," said 37-year-old Angeleno. “At the moment we're so happy that food banks are helping. It's very good, but it's not enough. "

Perez lost her caregiver job when the pandemic broke out this spring. She said, for safety reasons for the elderly and for herself, she couldn't go back to work.

Perez worked two jobs seven days a week to save money. Little did she know that most of her money would go towards rent, food and other bills if she was unemployed.

Seniors like Juana Martinez are also very confident that Newsom will sign the bill. The 60-year-old has lived in a low-income residential project Estrada Courts in Boyle Heights for 11 years.

She shares the apartment with her daughter, her son-in-law and two grandchildren aged 1 and 2 because they have not found an affordable place themselves. Her daughter and son-in-law do not work and hardly get by on unemployment benefits, which are between $ 300. Martinez herself receives $ 220 a month from the government and $ 100 for grocery stamps that she expands throughout the month.

To make ends meet, Martinez volunteers to pack groceries at a food distribution center in exchange for her family to take home a bag.

Elsy Perez, right, volunteered to provide food to people in need. Photo courtesy of Elsy Perez

Disaster relief turned out to be a great need

Joseph Villela, legislative director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights [CHIRLA], said her polls found migrant women were hit hardest by the pandemic.

The organization also found that people who received the previous $ 500 in disaster relief were using that money on housing and food. The lawyers took note of this and pushed for a new round of support.

“This is a great victory. First, because it essentially recognizes the humanity of immigrants affected by COVID-19, and second, because it actually recognizes their contribution, ”Villela said. "We asked state lawyers to take really bold action."

The food aid emergency program is supported by CHIRLA, the California Association of Food Banks, and the Western Center on Law & Poverty. It would work similarly to CalFresh, California's grocery stamp program, and be overseen by the State Department of Social Services.

"This is a great victory as it essentially recognizes the humanity of immigrants affected by COVID-19 and actually recognizes their contribution."

Joseph Vilela, Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights

The money has to be found

Santiago admits that his bill would only approve the program; Financing is not included.

"It's not uncommon for you to do bills like this because when we created the Community College Free Invoice, we followed the guidelines, but it gave us the opportunity to fight with all our might to get the money." , he said.

The MP said lawmakers had yet to approve the funding. Even so, he remains optimistic as the Newsom administration allocated $ 75 million to the disaster relief program as part of the state's multi-billion dollar pandemic.

While unable to specify exactly how many people could benefit from this bill, Santiago believes that this applies to everyone who makes up 80% of the poverty lines in the region. In fact, the bill authorizes a second round of the $ 600 cards if enough money is made available.

"Remember, these are unprecedented times," said Santiago. "Under normal circumstances, I'll tell you this won't work, but in the COVID times we were able to shift budgets."

Jacqueline Garcia is a reporter at La Opinión. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration of newsrooms researching income inequality and economic survival in California.

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