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Legislators: Immigrant families need income assistance, too

OLYMPIA (Jan. 20, 2021) — As workers in Washington state continue to struggle with economic hardship related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO is backing efforts to provide immigrant workers with income support when the unemployment insurance system fails to do so. Part of the WSLC’s Workers’ Recovery Agenda, this assistance for immigrant families is needed to promote racial equity and an economic recovery that leaves no one behind.

Last year, the WSLC supported the establishment of the $40 million Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund, which distributed $1,000 per person (up to $3,000 per household) to Washington residents who are ineligible because of immigration status for federal stimulus funds or unemployment benefits.

This year, the WSLC is joining the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN) in calling on state legislators to provide immigrant workers who have lost their jobs with some income support.

TAKE A STAND — The WAISN has set up an online action on the issue. Click here to send a letter to your legislators in support of this effort. Here is the (editable) letter that will be sent to your legislators:

A legislative session committed to principles of racial equity and to ensuring a just recovery cannot leave undocumented workers behind. As COVID-19 continues to have a disproportionate impact on undocumented workers, it is clear that the need for income replacement and financial supports that are sustainable and long term can only be addressed through a policy fix.

Today I’m writing to demand you support legislation that will allow the state to implement a program to provide undocumented workers with income replacement comparable to benefits received by those on unemployment insurance. While the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund and any additional funding allocated by the legislature towards similar efforts are a great first step towards meeting the needs of undocumented workers, one time payments are not sufficient relief. A robust income replacement system implemented through legislation is the way the legislature can meet its commitment to immigrant rights and racial equity and build towards greater stability for a community that has been devastated by the pandemic.

More than 250,000 undocumented immigrants call Washington home. These workers make substantial contributions to Washington’s economy, including paying more than $316 million each year in state and local taxes. They are overrepresented in industries that have been decimated by the pandemic, including restaurants, hospitality, landscaping and construction.

And they have been deprived of over $700 million in relief funding that they would have received if they were U.S. citizens or permanent residents. It is time for the State Legislature to step up and provide relief our national leaders have sought to make inaccessible based on immigration status.

The choices you make now to help us weather the outbreak of this virus can also set a better course for the future of our communities. In your leadership role, it is your duty to make policy choices that help us all, no matter our immigration status.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!