Safety Net for All


When the COVID-19 pandemic began and millions lost their jobs, unemployment insurance benefits served as an essential lifeline for Californians, more so than other forms of relief. However, based on outdated and racist policies, undocumented immigrant workers, who comprise 1 in 16 workers in California, were entirely excluded from unemployment benefits, despite being some of the most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even short-term losses in jobs or income can severely affect families’ livelihoods: an estimated one third of undocumented residents are parents, and more than one-in-eight school-aged children in California have a parent who is undocumented. Without the support of essential safety net programs like unemployment insurance, many immigrant families were forced to exhaust their life savings, accumulate greater debt, and compromise their health to simply afford basic necessities like rent and food.

This exclusion also hurts employers, who have collectively contributed an estimated $4.4 billion dollars over the past decade to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund on behalf of undocumented workers alone. Yet, excluded immigrant workers do not see a cent of that money. Employers are therefore losing out on their investments into a safety net that is supposed to help stabilize their workforce, especially in seasonal industries like agriculture. California has been a leader in creating relief funds to ensure that undocumented residents are not excluded from safety net programs during major disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic—but we cannot stop here.

The COVID-19 pandemic was not the first major public emergency that California faced and it won’t be the last. Global environmental challenges such as climate change and catastrophic wildfires also place excluded immigrant workers at risk of facing a disaster without a safety net. Anyone who is unemployed—even outside of a pandemic—is experiencing a crisis and it is our responsibility to ensure all Californians are protected. To create a strong and resilient economy, we need a safety net for all of us.

Take Action

CIPC, along with the Safety Net for All Coalition, is advocating to win unemployment benefits for excluded immigrant workers, who are shut out of Unemployment Insurance solely due to their immigration status. We’re calling on the state to invest $690 million this year to provide excluded immigrant workers with $300 a week for up to 20 weeks of unemployment. This program builds on the momentum created by programs in other states, such as New York, New Jersey, Washington, Iowa, and Colorado, and galvanized by immigrant workers across the country. Now it’s up to California to ensure that every worker and family in the state has access to a safety net and the tools we all need to be healthy and thrive. Join CIPC and the Safety Net for All Coalition to urge California to fund excluded workers now!


Share Your Story

Are you excluded from Unemployment Insurance and COVID relief because of your immigration status? Know anyone who is? Share your story here

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