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Relief, criticism after Washington sets $43 million coronavirus aid for undocumented residents

Republican budget writer says seniors should get funding instead.

OLYMPIA, Wash — Undocumented residents in Washington state impacted by COVID-19 could be receiving $1,000 checks, after Gov. Jay Inslee said he created a fund to help undocumented residents using federal dollars.

Inslee allocated $43 million for an Immigrant Relief Fund in Washington state. 

Dora, a Seattle grandmother who did not want her last name published over deportation fears, said she needs that help.

She sells El Salvadorian food from her Seattle home to support her family in El Salvador.

She and her husband do not have documentation to legally reside in the United States.

Her husband Hector got injured working on a construction site earlier this summer, but does not qualify for disability or unemployment benefits because of his immigration status.

“This pandemic has caused so much stress and anxiety that I'm taking a lot of medication to calm me down,” Dora said through a translator.

Dora’s mother, 80-year-old Marina, just died from COVID-19 in El Salvador.

“I feel very sad. And sometimes, I feel incapable of doing daily tasks,” said Dora.

She was glad to hear about Inslee’s proposal.

“It's going to be very helpful for families like mine. I'm happy that it will make things a bit better,” she said.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are more than 229,000 undocumented residents in Washington.

Workers throughout the state were affected by the pandemic, either through layoffs or furloughs or because they had to isolate due to coronavirus exposure on the job.

The workers who are undocumented didn't qualify for the enhanced unemployment or the $1,200 stimulus checks that were distributed as part of the CARES Act. 

State Senator John Braun, R-Lewis County, said he is sympathetic for that segment of the population, but feels like the money should instead go towards supporting the state’s senior citizens.

“In particularly, ones that are in long term facilities,” Braun said. “That's where people are dying, and I can't justify doing this and, at the same time, cutting support to our long term care facilities.”

RELATED: Gov. Inslee allocates $43 million to help protect undocumented, agricultural workers during COVID-19 pandemic

On Thursday, Inslee told reporters that $40 million will be distributed to help undocumented residents and $3 million for agricultural workers in central and eastern Washington who were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The National Guard will also be deployed to that same area to help with coronavirus testing.

The $40 million aims to help undocumented workers impacted by COVID-19 who are not eligible for unemployment or stimulus checks due to their immigration status. The extra $3 million will go towards certain food production workers who need to isolate themselves due to COVID-19.

"We know COVID-19 has taken a disproportionate toll on undocumented people and agricultural workers," Inslee said.

Inslee said the funding is coming from federal CARES Act dollars that have been allocated to states to help deal with the fallout from the pandemic.

The $40 million will be distributed later this fall once the state determines an entity to run the fund, Gov. Inslee said. 

The funding announcement comes after Inslee visited Okanogan County Thursday morning. The county is considered the latest hot spot in Washington state for COVID-19 cases with nearly 900 cases among its 42,000 residents.

The town of Brewster, which has about 2,300 residents, is a particular hot spot with 514 cases, Inslee said.

Gov. Inslee said the National Guard will be deploying to Okanogan County to help test people for COVID-19.

RELATED: Yakima County hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients

Credit: KING
Washington state set a $43 million fund to help undocumented immigrants and agricultural workers during the coronavirus pandemic.