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More than 60 representatives from organizations in central California and local officials signed a letter to state lawmakers Tuesday asking for a weekly stipend for workers in the state illegally who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus, according to a report.
The letter, which was sent to two assemblymembers from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo and one state senator, called on lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom to "exercise their authority to put an end to the exclusion of undocumented workers from California’s safety net, and provide weekly income support for all workers whose families are struggling due to job loss during this crisis," according to the New Times of San Luis Obispo.
Assemblywoman Monique Limón of Santa Barbara, who received a letter, also signed a separate letter from California lawmakers on Monday to Newsom, calling on him to adopt an “undocumented worker partial income replacement program.”
Undocumented workers make up an estimated 10 percent of the workforce in California, but the state's $125 million coronavirus relief fund for workers in the state illegally is only expected to help a small fraction of them.
Santa Maria Councilwoman Gloria Soto, who signed Tuesday's letter, previously said supporting local nonprofits will help undocumented workers get financial assistance.
“We need to continue to support organizations that are pushing this kind of work,” she said.
The Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project "is one of the organizations that will be helping the state of California distribute the funds that the state has allocated for undocumented families here in our own community, so continuing to support organizations like those [is imperative]," she added, according to the New Times.
“The website is currently up and running, and we are continuing to increase its capacity,” Scott Murray, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Social Services, said, acknowledging the high volume, according to The Fresno Bee. “We understand that the demand is high for the Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants program.”
In addition, nonprofit relief hotlines were overwhelmed by the number of callers trying to reach the required live person.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, one of the nonprofits chosen to distribute the funds, had more than 1 million calls Monday.
“Day 1 of the #DRAI project, CHIRLA worked to ensure 668 residents in LA and Orange County got on their way to receive the #coronavirus aid they desperately need,” the nonprofit said in a tweet. “Not letting the 1,137,000 calls or the 6 million website visits stop us.”
Lucas Zucker, who runs a nonprofit north of Los Angeles, called the chaotic start a “nightmare we all knew was coming," the Guardian reported. "We’re putting a Band-Aid on an open chest wound."
“Websites and phone lines across the state crashed," he tweeted. "Our team saw so much frustration, anger and sadness from folks just trying to feed their kids. The need here is way too large to be met with a one-time disaster relief fund.
Ana Padilla, executive director of UC Merced’s Community and Labor Center, said the state’s $125 million fund is expected to run out “very quickly.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Sacramento has freed up $75 million in taxpayer money for the fund, which could help about 150,000 who may be facing severe hardships during the pandemic.
The other $50 million will be paid by organizations and private donors, according to the Guardian.
The fund would give a one-time $500 payment for an individual or $1,000 for a family.
California is the first state to rollout such a program.
A lawsuit filed by the Center for American Liberty seeking to stop the funds from being distributed was dismissed by the state’s Supreme Court earlier this month, according to the Bee.
Recipients must prove they are unable to receive benefits from any federal assistance programs and provide evidence they are going through severe financial hardship because of the virus.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the novel program in April.
“Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis,” Newsom said at the time.
Republican Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo and Democratic state Sen. Hannah Beth-Jackson were sent letters along with Limón, according to the New Times.
Fox News' Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.