OLYMPIA — Undocumented people in Washington are more likely to be affected by COVID-19, whether it’s being infected with the virus, losing a job or having issues with at-home education, compared to many of their neighbors.
Despite paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes every year, undocumented immigrants don’t have access to most government relief. That means no weekly unemployment payments and no $1,200 stimulus checks.
For months, Snohomish County’s undocumented residents have relied on food banks and nonprofits to help fill the financial gaps caused by the pandemic. But some may soon qualify for $1,000 checks of their own through a new state plan.
On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a $40 million program, funded with federal CARES Act dollars, to bring financial relief to some of Washington’s more than 200,000 undocumented residents.
“This immigrant relief fund is going to help workers who are the backbone of our agricultural economy and many other parts of our economy, to make sure they do not fall behind,” Inslee said at a Thursday news briefing. “It’s the right thing to do, because we know COVID has taken a disproportionate effect on immigrants and minorities of color.”
To be eligible, undocumented Washingtonians must prove they have been financially burdened by COVID-19.
But it’ll be a while before anyone can apply.
The state has to select a nonprofit to help facilitate the payments. The program is expected to be up and running by September, with money going to select applicants in October.
Washington’s program mirrors others that launched months ago in California and Oregon.
There’s still more to do for the state’s undocumented residents, Inslee’s chief of staff David Postman told reporters Wednesday.
“On a per capita basis, it really is far and above what’s been able to be done in other West Coast states,” he said. “But it can be both. It can be the most generous and it can be not enough.”
Postman added he hopes the fund builds trust between the state and its undocumented population.
In Snohomish County and the state, the pandemic has had severe effects on Hispanic, Black and other racial and ethnic groups.
Statewide, Hispanic residents make up 13% of the population, but more than 40% of all COVID cases, according to state data.
Nearly 70% of Washingtonians are white, but they account for a little more than one third of cases.
That mirrors a Snohomish Health District report. From January to July, Hispanic residents in the county were more than three times as likely to contract COVID-19 than their non-Hispanic white neighbors.
Undocumented people pay taxes, too.
Most don’t have Social Security numbers. However, they use internal taxpayer identification numbers to pay taxes that fund programs they usually can’t access.
Statewide, undocumented Washingtonians pay more than $300 million in state and local taxes each year, per the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
In 2015, undocumented Americans paid $23.6 billion in taxes, according to data from the federal government.
Throughout Snohomish County, several cities also host similar programs funded through the CARES Act.
The cities of Edmonds, Lynnwood, Marysville and Mountlake Terrace have either facilitated or are working on COVID-19 relief funds, where all residents financially impacted by the virus can apply for anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 to pay for rent, food or other expenses.
Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; email@example.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.
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