Illegal immigrants living in California can begin applying for financial assistance as part of a statewide relief effort to help those without legal status access disaster relief amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The $75 million landmark relief program is the first of its kind, offering payments of $500 per person and up to $1,000 per household.

Launched by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month, the initiative will work with 12 nonprofit organizations to disburse the aid to individuals who were otherwise excluded from federal relief programs or unemployment assistance.

In order to qualify, applicants will be required to show that they are ineligible for federal assistance programs related to the coronavirus pandemic, including the CARES Act passed by Congress.

Individuals must also be 18 years or older to be considered.

The nonprofits will help applicants determine if they qualify for the state relief, apply for it and deliver the one-time payment cards to those who are approved.

The state hopes to help a projected 150,000 immigrants without legal status through the effort.

The funds will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until they are depleted, or until June 30 at the latest.

“Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis,” Newsom said when unveiling the effort last month.

The governor added that about 10 percent of the state’s workforce is undocumented, saying that while they paid over $2.5 billion in local and state taxes in 2019, they were left unable to benefit from the federal government’s relief funds.

Nearly a quarter of the United States’ population of illegal immigrants lives in California, where they make up more than 6 percent of the state’s population, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

On Monday, undocumented individuals flooded the state’s disaster relief website on its first day of launch, which caused the site to crash for several hours, the Fresno Bee reports, citing state officials.

The paper also reported that hotlines for the nonprofits distributing the funds were “jammed,” with many unable to get through.

All 12 of the nonprofits reported extremely high call volumes to the New York Times, with some saying they were overwhelmed by the thousands of calls they were receiving.

The Times reports that in the first 90 minutes after the program’s launch, just one of the organizations received 630,000 calls, thus jamming the phone line.

“The website is currently up and running, and we are continuing to increase its capacity. We understand that the demand is high for the Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants program,” a spokesman for the state Social Services Department told the Bee at the time.


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