‘There’s a Great Need’: 805 UndocuFund Resumes Stimulus Checks for Undocumented Residents
After having a baby last year, Santa Barbara resident Brenda found herself unemployed and struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, wondering how she would provide necessities like clothes and food for her family.
As an undocumented individual, Brenda, who chose not to provide her last name due to her documentation status, is ineligible for federal stimulus aid. However, she received help in the form of a $1,200 check provided by nonprofit disaster relief group 805 Undocufund. Now, she is seeking a second round of funding after the group opened applications again.
“This makes a huge difference,” she said, sitting in the organization’s office in Santa Barbara on Friday with friend Graciela, who also applied to the fund.
Thousands of undocumented families like Brenda’s were able to receive aid last year from a $6 million pot of money raised by the nine-person 805 Undocufund team. After closing applications in May, the nonprofit is preparing to fundraise to provide further aid for residents of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Created in 2017 by Future Leaders of America, the McCune Foundation, Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and Mixteco Indigena Community Organization Project (MICOP), the fund originally provided aid to those affected by the Thomas fire and Montecito mudslides, along with later disasters such as the Woolsey, Hill, Easy and Maria fires.
According to Eder Gaona-Macedo, executive director of Future Leaders of America, around 2,400 people have applied since applications opened on Jan. 29, with hundreds of requests still expected to flood in.
“We did open the Undocufund [again], just due to the overwhelming demand by community members who were seeking the support,” Gaona-Macedo said. “We know there’s a big need by the undocumented community, and Undocufund is here to support them.”
While the state has provided some financial assistance to undocumented residents, organizers say it’s not enough. In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom created a package containing one-time payments of $1,000 for around 150,000 undocumented adults, and $600 payments through the proposed Golden State Stimulus Plan are only available to undocumented residents who completed taxes last year with an individual taxpayer identification number.
“We need systematic change. There’s around 2.8 million undocumented individuals in the state of California alone, [who] provide billions of dollars in tax funds and don’t have any real benefit,” Gaona-Macedo said.
When the fund was reopened last year to support those affected by the pandemic, donations came in from individuals donating their own stimulus checks, as well as from different government organizations. As the federal government prepares to distribute another relief package this spring, Gaona-Macedo said he hopes people will feel moved to donate again.
Based on the strong response so far, Gaona-Macedo said they will likely need to raise another $7 million, including $2 million left over from the first round of fundraising.
“We were pleasantly surprised to see individuals pledge their $1,200 stimulus dollars to the fund, and people stepping up to make sure undocumented workers are supported in the same way everybody else is,” he said.
Despite the strong support from the community, Gaona-Macedo said the organization has been the target of anti-immigrant hatred and threats as a result of their work.
“We were receiving threatening phone calls and emails, threatening the function of our group because of our service to undocumented individuals,” he said. “This is really personal work. I, myself, came undocumented to this country. I know firsthand the struggles and fears of undocumented individuals, fears definitely heightened over the last four years.”
Despite the pushback, the group continues to work toward its goal, adding extra safeguards such as security software to protect applicants’ personal information.
This time, Gaona-Macedo said the group hopes to raise enough to provide checks upwards of $1,200, but they have not determined an exact amount at this time.
To apply to the 805 Undocufund, visit airtable.com/shrV0TspB3QUyFi6l. Those who have lost their jobs or had hours reduced as a result of the pandemic will be asked to supply documentation from their employer. The fund is also open to those who already received funds last year.
Those interested in donating to 805 Undocufund can find more information at 805undocufund.org/donate.