The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Oregon in ways that have reshaped the economy and social construct of our state. A recent article by the Oregonian revealed that Oregon’s Latinx population is disproportionately hit the hardest during this pandemic. We are concerned about the needs of immigrant communities, specifically those that are often the backbone of our state.
As COVID-19 continues to affect low-wage employees, we continue to see a high level of unemployment for the communities we serve. Many gainfully employed Oregonians who are immigrants (and contribute to our collective prosperity) have lost their jobs–and thus their wages–because of the pandemic and have no access to any wage replacement program such as the federal Unemployment Insurance program. This has immediate harsh impacts such as housing and food insecurity and long-term impacts for these immigrant families.
We are responding to this problem by creating a rapid community-based system that would provide financial relief to Oregonians that cannot access public benefits. Many Oregonian immigrants fall under classifications that make them ineligible for unemployment insurance (UI). For instance, many Oregonians operate as independent contractors or are ineligible for public benefits due to their immigration classification. The Oregon Worker Relief Fund will provide temporary financial support for those that are falling through the cracks during our current pandemic.
What’s the Oregon Worker Relief Fund?
The Oregon Worker Relief Fund will replace up to 60% of lost wages for Oregonians who, due to their or a family member’s immigration status, are disqualified from receiving Unemployment Insurance or stimulus benefits.
MRG is working with CAUSA, PCUN, Latino Network, APANO, and Innovation Law Lab, along with 100+ other community partners, who are leading a state-wide table of immigrant rights groups and are working on distributing funds directly to eligible families. MRG’s role is to hold and manage the funds that will go to build and support the infrastructure for the OWRF — the complex technology tools and platforms needed to process applications and disburse funds. (To learn more about the Fund that holds the dollars that will be disbursed, visit the CAUSA OWRF.)
Currently, Oregon lacks the infrastructure to help the more than 75,000 immigrant families that are affected by our government’s racist policies, and the state has no budget to build one. Rather than allow these barriers to hold us back from implementing this relief fund, MRG decided to take charge and build the necessary infrastructure. In fact, in the first week of April, MRG’s grantmakers made history when they approved our largest grant ever to seed the first $185,000 to begin the infrastructure process.
MRG’s efforts for the OWRF are focused on building the infrastructure. In other words, we are building the platform that will make it possible for families to access those funds. The state of Oregon has no platform to disburse funds to people without Social Security numbers. Without such a platform (that will work much like the current unemployment platform), distributing these funds would be an impossibility.
Rather than allow the lack of infrastructure to halt funding for our immigrant families, MRG has spearheaded the effort to build the infrastructure. What’s more, this platform will be available for Oregon even after the current crisis; it is an investment in the future of our state and our ability to care for our own. No other state besides California has this kind of system in place.
This is where you come in
Every dollar you share with MRG from your stimulus check will be used to build the system that will make it possible to support the Oregonians whose work is the lifeblood of our economy; the Oregonians who pay taxes but are denied the unemployment and stimulus dollars they are entitled to because they lack a piece of paper. Anything that we raise over and above the cost of building the infrastructure will be donated to the OWRF at CAUSA, who is holding the Fund to be distributed to individuals and families.
As appalling as the situation is, this is a wrong that we can make right. Right now.