JUNE 8, 2020
$2 Million IDHS Project Becomes First of State-Run Cash Relief program for IL Undocumented Families Impacted by COVID-19
Advocates say more relief could be on the way after IDHS immigrant services and welcoming centers receive $89 million
A new project by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), in partnership with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), has advocates expecting more funding to become available to undocumented families who have not yet received government aid amid COVID-19. Under the COVID-19 Immigrant Family Support Project, IDHS will dedicate $2 million in pandemic-related emergency assistance funding to Illinois immigrants - regardless of immigration status - who are facing unemployment, loss of income, medical costs, and food and housing insecurity as a direct result of COVID-19 and are ineligible for any federal funding relief.
In response to pressure from community advocates, deliberations during the recent special session in Springfield resulted in the IDHS budget for Welcoming Centers and Immigrant Services receiving $89 million in new funds. Broken down, the Welcoming Centers budget was raised from its current $1.5 million to $67 million for the upcoming year, while Immigrant Services appropriations grew from $6.5 million to $30 million. While the state has not announced details regarding the recent appropriations, it’s likely that much of the additional funds will be used to fill the gap of support for undocumented families by providing cash assistance and other COVID relief programs in the coming months.
Community advocates, who petitioned Illinois budgeteers to provide cash assistance to families excluded from COVID relief, see this program as well as the recent budget expansion as a signal that the Governor’s office is taking steps to rectify the federal exclusion of undocumented people in COVID relief. América Yañez, home cleaner and Arise Chicago member, said that the project will help alleviate some of the financial burden for many immigrant families. “Many of us did not receive any federal support or stimulus funds,” she said. “And many of us can't apply for unemployment either. Things are still not getting better.”
"The governor's action provides much needed relief for immigrant families, including many who are the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 yet were excluded from getting federal stimulus funds," said Griselda Vega Samuel, Midwest regional counsel for MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund). "MALDEF is heartened to see that the state recognizes that immigrants play a critical role in the state's economy and its future."
Ugo Okere, Policy Director at Raise the Floor Alliance, said, “Right now, the most immediate need is to put cash into the hands of working families across this state who have been starved by an economic system built for the rich and powerful. Our undocumented community has undoubtedly been one of the hardest groups hit, and while we have worked to ensure relief for them, we must in turn continue to address the needs of other communities left out of federal and local aid.”
As the state moves to reopen, many residents, especially Black and brown families, have not seen a dime of federal or state relief funds even as mass unemployment and COVID-19 increases. Those affected include:
- Approximately 440,000 undocumented residents who cannot receive unemployment, stimulus payments
- Approximately 4,800 unemployed citizens recently released from jail due to COVID-19 concerns and who are ineligible for unemployment
- Workers in the cash economy who are otherwise ineligible for unemployment
These populations, over-represented by communities of color, have been be left vulnerable to illness and financial ruin during the ongoing COVID-9 crisis. As less than one in five Black workers and roughly one in six Latinx workers can work from home, Black and Latinx residents in Illinois are more likely to test positive from or die due to COVID-19. Responding to the ongoing exclusion of Black and Brown families from federal COVID relief, the Emergency Assistance for Illinois Families Coalition called for an $111.2 million appropriation for emergency direct cash assistance and has gained over 750 signatures of support through a Change.org petition.
The Emergency Assistance for Illinois Families Coalition is supported by Latino Policy Forum, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and Raise the Floor Alliance.
Endorsing organizations include: Arise Chicago, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Chicago Community and Workers’ Rights, Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, Latino Union of Chicago, Warehouse Workers for Justice, Workers Center for Racial Justice, HEAL Food Alliance, Grassroots Collaborative, Illinois Domestic Worker Coalition, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, St. Nicholas Parish (Evanston), Mano a Mano Family Resource Center, Spanish Community Center, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, Collaborative for Health Equity, and Indo American Center.