Los Angeles United States.

Telephones keep ringing at TODEC, a pro-immigrant organization in California: there are thousands of undocumented who want to benefit from an economic assistance plan that this state established in the wake of the pandemic.

Governor Gavin Newsom had a $ 75 million fund that will be distributed among 150,000 immigrants, just over 6% of the population without papers in the state. Another 50 million dollars, financed by private foundations, will allow reaching more people.

“The need exceeds the funds,” but at any rate “it will help many families,” Luz Gallegos of TODEC, one of the 12 NGOs authorized to receive applications, told .. “It is a great step that our state takes to protect the most vulnerable, such as the undocumented.”

About 10% of California’s workforce it’s not legal in the United States, and cover sectors considered essential today as food, including the field, construction and manufacturing.

And although they contribute some $ 2.5 billion in local and regional taxes, their immigration status prevents them from benefiting from unemployment insurance or the federal stimulus plan approved by the crisis.

“Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis,” Newsom said in April in announcing the program, the first statewide program aimed at helping undocumented immigrants during the covid-19 pandemic, which has caused almost 94,000 deaths and left millions without jobs in the country.

The process, which can only be done by phone, started on Monday and 15,000 applications were opened until Thursday afternoon, the Social Security department told ..

The NGOs assigned to the project could not cope. CHIRLA for example reported 630,000 calls in an hour and a half of the first day in the Los Angeles area. At TODEC, located in rural Perris, “the system collapsed,” Gallegos said. “We had to open all the lines in the office … all the phones were saturated.”

“You need that little help”

Adolfo Luna and his wife They started calling TODEC early, which serves the Moreno Valley area where they live. He made about 200 calls, she about 250 … and nothing: first it sounded busy, then they got a machine.

“I didn’t stop calling because you need that little help,” said the 52-year-old Mexican, in the country since 2000 when he crossed the border with his family. “When they took care of us, we left our data and we are waiting. We already brought the papers that they had asked for.”

The benefit is a one-time payment of $ 500 per individual and up to $ 1,000 per family. Applies to those over 18 years of age, who demonstrate that they cannot receive federal assistance and that they were impacted by the pandemic.

Luna, for example, has a family band of northern music, which has not appeared since February and has already lost 25 contracts.

Read: Unicef ​​denounces the return of migrant children from the US in a pandemic

“I have been looking for a job” since the strike began … “two or three times they have given me something, whatever it is,” he said. “Sometimes I go out and pick up aluminum trash cans to sell.”

He has also sold sports equipment that he had at home and even equipment from his group. Many farmers have also lost their jobs and live in very “complex” situations, explained Leydy Rangel, spokesperson for the foundation of the influential farmers’ union UFW, responsible for distributing the money in the Central Valley region.

“We have people who are not domiciled and we have to find ways to get the card to him” with the money, he explained. Newsom, criticized by conservative groups, had already ordered other benefits for essential workers during the pandemic.

Rangel considered that “this program represents a good first step to create necessary changes” in the future. “The undocumented are not only essential, they contribute taxes at the state and federal levels, and it stands to reason that they receive benefits” even after the pandemic.