May 13, 2022
SACRAMENTO – In response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May Revision to the proposed 2022-2023 state budget announced today, the Safety Net for All Coalition—made up of over 150 immigrant and workers’ rights organizations across California—continues to call out the exclusion of immigrant workers from the most critical worker lifeline: unemployment benefits.
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia of Coachella along with 20 members of the Legislature submitted a budget proposal to create a state pilot program that will provide those who are ineligible for unemployment insurance due to their immigration status with $300 per week for up to 20 weeks. The program is modeled off of successful programs in other states that addressed fraud while respecting workers’ dignity and privacy.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, large corporations have experienced record breaking profits, which are a large contributor to the state having an unprecedented budget surplus. Meanwhile, California’s undocumented communities have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19 related job losses and received the least support to care for their families and recover from the pandemic. According to the Century Foundation, the Golden State Stimulus and Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants Program only constituted a tiny fraction of relief compared to all other Californians. In the first year of the pandemic, California unemployed citizen workers were eligible for up to 20 times as much economic aid as unemployed undocumented workers ($35,000 vs $1,700). The majority of the gap was due to unemployment benefit exclusions.
This exclusion exacerbated long standing inequities for excluded immigrant workers. According to the report, Essential Fairness, published in March by the UC Merced Community and Labor Center, twice as many noncitizen workers (38%) live below a “living wage” than citizen workers (18%), and more than six in ten (61%) children living in noncitizen worker households live below a living wage, compared with 36% of other children in worker households.
Unemployment benefit exclusions hurt our economy and employers. California employers pay over $459 million every year in UI taxes on behalf of undocumented workers, even though those workers don’t see a cent of that money.
“Access to unemployment benefits can make all the difference in a family affording rent and food to feed their children. Our immigrant communities are Californians who contribute millions to our unemployment program and economy and they deserve access to program benefits they have earned. It is long overdue for California to lead on unemployment equity and inclusion for all workers, and this pilot program will help get us on track for a permanent solution.” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia.
“Funding for unemployment benefits for excluded immigrant workers should be included in the state budget. We cannot ignore the fact that while all workers are important, only certain workers have access to unemployment benefits in the time of a crisis. By extending these protections to workers who have been excluded, we create stability for California’s workforce and achieve full equity in the state. California must stop the double standard, sacrificing one of our most vulnerable communities especially during years when we’ve experienced historic financial windfalls. California’s leadership should be as brave as the undocumented essential workers who race and are placed in the frontline to help us recover and overcome all types of crisis, from raging wildfires to pandemic and beyond,” said Veronica Alvarado of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center.
“The reason why California has such an enormous budget surplus is because the wealthy and corporations have continued to do extremely well at the hands of low income immigrant workers. We have a successful, proven way to provide unemployment benefits to these workers while addressing fraud, respecting privacy, and building a more resilient California. We just need the political will to do so,” said Sasha Feldstein of the California Immigrant Policy Center.
“California is an economic powerhouse and a global center for innovation, but not all workers who have helped to build this economy benefit from the state’s bounty. Approximately one in sixteen California workers are excluded from unemployment insurance due to immigration status, placing them and their families at risk of financial devastation in the event of job loss. We need to expand the social safety net to build a resilient and equitable economy for all, which is why we support AB 2847,” said Kelsey Chapple from Bet Tzedek Legal Services.
“Immigrant restaurant workers in San Francisco have already suffered enough through the pandemic without access to safety nets like Unemployment Insurance due to unfair exclusion. We are disappointed that yet again, California is choosing to exclude immigrant workers from much needed relief that will be key to our community’s economic recovery,” said Lucia Lin from Trabajadores Unidos/Workers United.
“The issue here is a simple one: everyone deserves to have a safety net to count on in times of crisis. The labor of undocumented workers subsidizes our unemployment insurance system, yet these individuals have never been able to access a single cent of these benefits in their time of need. California has the resources to fix this fundamental injustice and must act now,” said Kim Ouillette from Legal Aid at Work.
“We are disappointed that Governor Newson has given his back to essential workers, among them our Indigenous farmworkers. We cannot build a strong economy until all workers have the same opportunities to thrive. We cannot continue to build an economy at the expense of the health and well-being of the workers who make our economy run. That is not racial and economic justice,” said Dr. Sarait Martinez from Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indigena Oaxaqueño.
“While farmworkers conduct some of the hardest physical labor and make California the major economic powerhouse that it is, we have left farmworker families behind and pushed them into a cycle of poverty. When this country was told to stay indoors whether because of the pandemic or massive fires, farmworkers put their lives on the line, without the basic safety net of unemployment. It is time for California legislators to end this exploitative exclusion and provide unemployment benefits for all immigrant workers in the state.” said Ocil Herrejon, Associate Organizing Director of CAUSE.
“A ‘California For All’ cannot exclude one in sixteen workers. If a massive budget surplus can fund a rainy-day in the future, it can fund excluded workers weathering major disasters today” said Edward Orozco Flores from UC Merced Community and Labor Center.
“For the past two years, we have relied on workers calling them essential and keeping them in the front lines. I’m so disappointed to hear that those same essential workers are not being included in the safety net that they need to keep us going,” said Flor Rodriguez from CLEAN Carwash Worker Center.
About Safety Net for All Coalition
The Safety Net for All Coalition is composed of over 100 organizations throughout California united by the fight for an inclusive safety net for all workers. This year, the coalition is calling for unemployment benefits for immigrant workers who are currently excluded from unemployment insurance. AB 2847, the Excluded Workers Pilot Program, would provide temporary wage replacement for undocumented workers who cannot work. The Covid-19 pandemic put a spotlight on gaps in support for California’s workforce. SN4A is fighting to include excluded workers to strengthen families, communities and the California economy.