Eligible immigrants in Yakima County and the state have until November 14 to apply to the Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund.
Established in 2020, the fund provides financial assistance to Washington residents who are unable to receive other forms of government assistance due to their immigrant status. The fund offers a minimum of $1,000 in support to those whose applications are accepted.
According to a press release from the state Department of Social and Health Services, the fund provided $125 million in financial assistance to nearly 121,000 people between 2020 and 2021. This year, the Washington Legislature approved an additional $340 million for 2022 and 2023.
To ensure that as many people as possible can apply during the nine-week application period, the fund works with community organizations across the state.
In Yakima County, Nuestra Casa, a Sunnyside-based organization focused on immigrant needs, offers support to applicants.
Karla Rodriguez, civic engagement and leadership coordinator at Nuestra Casa, has hosted events throughout the Lower Valley where people can ask questions about the application and get help completing it.
Since applications opened on Sept. 19, Rodriguez said she estimates Nuestra Casa has helped about 1,000 people apply.
“People are really grateful for this fund. It is sometimes a great relief for people to receive financial assistance of any kind, let alone $1,000 or more. People are just happy to have the opportunity to apply and get a little help,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez stressed that regardless of whether people come to Nuestra Casa for assistance, applicants should be aware of the Fund’s criteria for applying and the documents required.
“Have all the documents ready for the application. Most importantly, you need a document proving your status as a Washington resident,” Rodriguez said. “This can be anything that has your address on it, from your driver’s license to utility bills, medical bills, or even a payslip.”
Gilberto Velazco, a Granger resident who attended one of Nuestra Casa’s job application support events, said at some point in the last two years everyone in his family contracted COVID-19. Most who fell ill missed out on wages for weeks. Others lost their jobs altogether.
“I’m here to see if I can access some of these funds. Everyone in my family, from children to adults, has gotten sick at some point, some more than once despite being vaccinated,” Velazco said. “Some of us got sick, healed, got back to work, and learned we weren’t needed anymore. The financial impact has taken a heavy toll on all of us.”
Velazco said any form of financial support for him and his family would be greatly appreciated.
To be eligible for financial assistance, the fund requires that applicants be residents of Washington, be at least 18 years old, and be able to demonstrate how the pandemic has adversely affected them.
This can mean losing hours at work, losing a job entirely, contracting COVID-19, or caring for family members who have contracted the virus. Refugees, asylum seekers, DACA recipients and others with a legal work permit in the US are not eligible for the fund.
Between December 2022 and January 2023, applicants will receive an update on whether or not their application has been accepted. Funds will be withdrawn by check or prepaid card by the end of January 2023. Funds are non-refundable, non-taxable and their use is at the discretion of the recipient.
Residents who have applied for funds in previous years may reapply, regardless of whether they have received funds in the past. The fund is open to anyone over the age of 18, which means multiple people in a household can apply.
Rodriguez noted that when it comes to government assistance, many immigrants are often wary of submitting identifying information such as addresses and names.
She urged all eligible individuals to apply, saying the application process is safe and applicants’ information is not voluntarily shared with government agencies such as immigration and customs.
“Anyone wishing to apply should do so without fear. The information they share is strictly confidential and is not shared with anyone,” Rodriguez said.
For a more detailed list of application requirements and organizations that offer application assistance, visit www.immigrantreliefwa.org. The website is available in English, Spanish, Korean, Tagalog and Japanese. Those seeking help can also call the fund at 844-620-1999.