City of Seattle Launches New $9 Million Aid Program for Immigrants in Wake of Pandemic

by Elizabeth Turnbull

On Oct. 15, applications opened for the City of Seattle’s COVID-19 disaster relief fund for immigrants, which includes $9 million to help residents who have immigrated to the U.S. and are impacted by COVID-19 — many of whom have struggled to receive federal aid. 

Of the funds, $7.94 million will provide direct cash assistance to low-income individuals who have immigrated to the U.S. Eligible households and individuals will receive between $1,000 and $3,000 in funds, depending on income levels. In addition, parties who were not eligible for aid from the federal CARES Act coronavirus stimulus program will be prioritized.

“Undocumented immigrants pay into our local and state tax system. They’re a part of our economy and communities, yet are qualified for few benefits when they need it most,” City Council President Lorena González said in a recent statement on the fund. “This has to change, and the City of Seattle is stepping up to ensure we provide equitable safety nets and resources for our immigrant families and neighbors.” 

Because the CARES Act stimulus funds, which were distributed earlier in the year, were withheld from undocumented workers and from U.S. citizens who are the children of one or more undocumented parents, this new relief fund, which closes on Nov. 5, is specifically meant to provide aid to immigrants. 

Individual adults who are eligible for relief will receive a one-time payment of $1,000 while eligible couples, parents, or caregivers with children can receive up to $3,000. Applicants do not have to worry about being one of the first to apply, as applications are considered based on needs, not on a first-come, first-served basis. 

In addition, anyone who lives, works, or goes to school in the City of Seattle is eligible to apply for the relief aid, since it is not solely restricted to Seattle residents.

Ultimately, the $9 million in aid comes from a joint $45 million COVID-19 relief package that the City announced in mid-August. Besides the $7.94 million that will go toward direct cash assistance, $700,000 of the new relief fund will be used to create a language-accessible outreach campaign, and the remaining $360,000 will be relegated to program administration and staffing costs. 

While dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has become somewhat of a normalized phenomenon, cases of the novel coronavirus have continued to steadily increase in Seattle and King County since the first spread of the virus in March. As of Thursday, King County had recorded over 24,000 cases in total since the start of the outbreak and close to 800 deaths as a result of infection. 

In addition, besides a recent new COVID-19 outbreak at the University of Washington this fall, the highest rates of positive COVID-19 cases in the county are in South King County, including Beacon Hill, SeaTac, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, and Federal Way, according to a recent KUOW article.

As opposed to North King County, testing sites have also taken longer to open in South King County, which is one of the most racially diverse parts of Seattle and has a long history of being a home for many individuals who have immigrated to the U.S.

Because the aid application is not first-come first-served, the fund aims to provide much-deserved aid to those who need it the most, said Joaquin Uy, the External Affairs Manager and Policy Advisor in the City of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

“Seattle would not be the Seattle it is today without immigrants and refugees, over the course of the city’s history, contributing to this economy and to its vibrant culture,” Uy said. “We owe a huge debt to immigrants previously, and today.”

The relief fund can be accessed here and the application information is available in seven different languages.

Liz Turnbull is a Seattle-based journalist.

The featured image is attributed to Duncan c under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial 2.0 license.