Inslee commits $40 million to Worker Relief Fund for undocumented individuals impacted by COVID-19

Washington will follow California’s lead in providing state-funded public assistance to undocumented communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN) announced Gov. Jay Inslee will launch a $40 million Worker Relief Fund to provide support to undocumented individuals in the state.



The fund will provide one-time cash assistance for those who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, but who have not been able to access unemployment or federal stimulus payments due to their undocumented status.

“Since COVID began, we have heard the stories of thousands of our undocumented siblings, including an undocumented mother and a restaurant worker in King County who lost her job as a result of this pandemic. Their most urgent need was to know the safest part of the city to sleep without a home without fear of immigration confrontation with their daughters of 1 year, 4 years and 6 years,” said Nedra Rivera and Linda Zietlow, hotline coordinators for WAISN, in a press release.

A coalition of organizations in April called on Inslee and the state to take action to address the needs of undocumented workers during the pandemic. A letter from the coalition urged Inslee and legislative leadership to create a worker relief fund with $100 million initially allocated to it. The letter also called on leadership to establish a permanent system to provide “wage replacement protection to workers who lose their jobs and are excluded from the current unemployment insurance system, including undocumented immigrants.”

[Undocumented workers] are overrepresented in industries that have been decimated by the pandemic, including restaurants, hospitality, landscaping and construction. Often living paycheck to paycheck, undocumented workers suddenly face the prospect of serious illness and complete loss of income, with no safety net.

Ineligible for unemployment insurance, disproportionately likely to lack access to paid sick leave or health insurance, and unfairly left out of federal stimulus measures, these community members are being forced to bear the brunt of a pandemic alone,” reads the letter.

WAISN says Inslee’s office will issue a request for proposal (RFP) to find a non-profit organization or foundation that will receive the funding and will work with community leaders to get the disaster relief funds to those in need of assistance.

According to New American Economy, there are approximately 283,000 undocumented immigrants in Washington who pay nearly $368 million in state and local taxes.