Assemblymember Ash Kalra, Advocates Urge Governor to Adopt Undocumented Worker Partial Income Replacement Program

Monday, May 18, 2020

Joint efforts highlight the need to establish a fund to help support undocumented workers displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) submitted a letter co-signed by him and 13 California legislators to Governor Gavin Newsom requesting increased support for the state’s undocumented worker population. The letter, supported by a wide coalition of civil rights, health advocacy, immigrant rights, legal aid, anti-poverty, social and economic justice, and labor organizations, outlined a temporary partial income replacement program for excluded workers who are not eligible for the state or federal benefits.

“We are grateful for the Governor’s foresight and leadership in establishing the Disaster Relief Fund that is providing life-sustaining emergency support for immigrant workers, but we need to continue to work together to provide an ongoing safety net for California families who are the foundation of our economic vitality,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “This program would help address the void created by the lack of action by the federal administration that has left our undocumented worker population in the cold, without any semblance of support or gratitude for the work they do on a daily basis.”

To address the urgent and fundamental need of undocumented workers, Assemblymember Kalra and advocates have proposed the creation of a temporary, partial income replacement program for excluded workers who are not eligible for the state or federal benefits administered by the Employment Development Department (EDD) and who are unemployed or underemployed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The total number of individuals who would access this program is estimated to be approximately 216,499.

The program would provide a $400 flat weekly benefit amount for a maximum of eight weeks for individuals unemployed or underemployed between March 29, 2020 and July 25, 2020. While this is far less than what other workers are currently eligible for through unemployment insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program would help provide a base level of support towards ensuring that undocumented and mixed status families can survive this pandemic and rebuild their lives.

“The health and well-being of all Californians depends on a strong safety net to ensure families have shelter, food and care through this crisis,” said Elly Matsumura, California Director of the Partnership for Working Families. “A crisis like this is no time for anti-immigrant exclusion—yet every income replacement or federal relief program leaves one group behind. We need to stand by our values in California and hold firm that no one gets left behind.”

A recent analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the University of California, Merced, Community and Labor Center found that nearly 1 in 4 job losses in California through April 18 hit non-citizen immigrants (22.7%), approximately double their share of the state’s overall population (11.5%).

“Our state can only begin to fully recover from the ravage of COVID 19 when undocumented families and workers are supported economically. We stand with Assemblymember Kalra’s efforts to bring equity to immigrant families who have gone weeks without pay who have been the backbone of our state’s economy. It is not only unjust but tragic and dangerous for undocumented workers to be forced deeper into poverty during these times,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).

Undocumented workers make up one in 10 workers in the state and are the backbone of some of California’s most important industries – hospitality, domestic service, and food service, among others – which have experienced the highest rates of unemployment during the pandemic. The impact of job loss threatens the livelihoods of millions more Californians in addition to the unemployed workers themselves; according to the California Budget and Policy Center, an estimated one in three undocumented residents is a parent and more than one in eight school-aged children in California may have a parent who is an undocumented immigrant. 

“Many of the workers who grow and prepare California’s food, build and maintain our homes, and care for our closest loved ones are struggling to support their families right now with no income and no safety net,” said Kimberly Alvarenga, Executive Director of the California Domestic Worker Coalition (CDWC). “The survival of our families is essential.”

Additional support for the relief fund:

“As legal aid attorneys, we are on the front lines of hearing undocumented workers’ pleas for access to life-saving resources. During our weekly virtual clinics, we have spoken with hundreds of workers who are desperate to keep a roof over their families’ heads and food on their tables, and the only thing we can do is direct them to food pantries. Through no fault of their own, our clients have lost their only source of income literally overnight.” - Dana Hadl, Directing Attorney, Bet Tzedek Legal Services

Worker stories available upon request:

Domestic Workers: Alex Early, CDWC, 617-816-4260

Garment Workers: Alex Sanchez, Garment Worker Center, 909-908-7498

Farmworkers: Lucas Zucker, CAUSE, 805-216-8566

Janitorial Workers: Denise Velasco, Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund, 714-350-0743

Restaurant Workers: Alexandra Suh, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, 213-738-9050

List of coalition members:

National Association of Working Women

AFSCME 3299

Amigos de Guadalupe Center for Justice and Empowerment

Asian Americans Advancing Justice - California

Asian Law Alliance

Bet Tzedek Legal Services

Bright Beginnings

CA Food Policy Advocates

California Association of Food Banks

California Domestic Workers Coalition

California Employment Lawyers Association

California Faculty Association – San Francisco State University

California Immigrant Policy Center

California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA)

California Labor Federation

California National Organization for Women

California Nonprofits Association

California Partnership

California Reinvestment Coalition

California Women’s Law Center

California Work & Family Coalition

CCRI at UC Merced

Center for Worker’ Rights

Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

Central Coast Early Childhood Advocacy Network

Central Valley Partnership

Centro Laboral de Graton/ALMAS

Centro Legal de la Raza

Children’s Defense Fund - California

Chinese Progressive Association 

CLEAN Carwash Campaign

Coachella Valley Immigrant Dignity Coalition

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)

Community Bridges

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto

Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA)

County Welfare Directors Association

CRLA Foundation

Dolores Street Community Services - La Colectiva/Day Labor Program

East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy

Educators for Peaceful Classrooms and Communities

El Pajaro Community Development Corporation

      Employee Rights Center

Equal Rights Advocates

Faith in the Valley

First 5 Santa Cruz County

Food Empowerment Project

Friends Committee on Legislation of California

Fund for Santa Barbara

Future Leaders of America

Garment Worker Center

Golden State Opportunity

GRACE Institute/End Child Poverty in CA

Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network

Healthy Kids Happy Faces

Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco

Human Agenda

Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA)

Instituto Laboral de la Raza

Jewish Center for Justice

Jobs with Justice San Francisco

KIWA (Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance)

Korean Community Center of the East Bay

La Raza Centro Legal

LAANE

Labor and Community Studies, City College of San Francisco

Latinos in Action 2020

Legal Aid at Work

Legal Aid of Marin

Live Oak Cradle to Career Initiative

Los Angeles Worker Center Network

Maitri

MAIZ San Jose

Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP)

Mujeres Unidas y Activas

National Council of Jewish Women - California

National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles

National Domestic Workers Alliance

National Employment Law Project

National Immigration Law Center

National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles

National Lawyers Guild SF Bay Area Legislative Reform Committee

Never Again UUSF

NorCal Resist

North Bay Organizing Project

Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD)

Organizacion en California de Lideres Campesinas, Inc.

Oxfam America

Oxnard College

Parent Voices CA

Partnership for Working Families

Partnerships for Trauma Recovery

PAWIS (Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants)

Program for Torture Victims

Refugee & Immigrant Transitions

Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) the Bay

Sacred Heart Community Service

Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition

Santa Cruz Community Health

Santa Cruz Community Ventures

SEIU California

SEIU-United Service Workers West

Senior and Disability Action

Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN)

Street Level Health Project

Teamsters Local Union No. 890

Thai Community Development Center

The Diversity Center

The Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund

The Unity Council

TODEC Legal Center

Together We Will - San José

UC Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program

UCLA Labor Center

UFCW LOCAL 135

UndocuFund for Disaster Relief

UNITE HERE International Union

United Educators of San Francisco

Voices for Progress

Warehouse Worker Resource Center

Western Center on Law and Poverty

Western States Regional Joint Board, Workers United

Women’s Foundation of California

Women’s Employment Rights Clinic - Golden Gate University

Working Partnerships USA

Worksafe

Young Workers United

YWCA Monterey County