California governor considers aid for immigrants amid virus
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday he is working with the Legislature on an economic stimulus package for immigrants in the country illegally and others not covered by the federal stimulus package approved by Congress.
The federal government is dividing up about $30 billion to roughly 14 million California households this month, part of the federal CARES Act. But the checks — $1,200 per adult earning less than $75,000 and $2,400 per couple under $150,000 — only go to those who file their taxes using a Social Security number.
Those who use an individual Taxpayer Identification Number, including most living in the country illegally, are excluded.
The $2.2 trillion federal aid package also includes money to boost unemployment benefits by an extra $600 per week, money also unavailable to people living in the country illegally who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
About 2 million people in California are suspected of living in the country illegally, according to the California Latino Legislative Caucus. The group has asked Newsom to create a “Disaster Relief Fund” for cash payments to those immigrants until the state’s emergency proclamation is lifted or they are able to return to work.
Newsom said “all of that is being considered,” adding it is part of a broader package he plans to unveil in May that will include “some economic stimulus strategies at a state level, not just waiting for the federal government to do that for us.”
“Californians care deeply about undocumented residents in this state,” he said.
California has been aggressive in expanding government-funded benefits for immigrants living in the country illegally. Last year, lawmakers made California the first state in the country to offer government-funded health benefits to low-income adults 25 and younger living in the country illegally.
But some Republicans questioned the plan. The state has delayed the tax filing deadline to July 15, one month after lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass a state spending plan. On Monday, a memo from the Assembly Budget Committee said lawmakers will likely have to revise the budget in August, saying “sizable” spending cuts are possible.
“I see the state of California and its budget as a house of cards and with this coronavirus-induced recession, I’m just trying to figure out where the money would come from,” said state Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa. “I would say helping undocumented would be a luxury item.”
The state has more than 17,000 coronavirus cases and some 450 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, infections are growing at a slower pace than officials had feared.
The number of COVID-19 related intensive care hospitalizations increased only 2.1% in the last 24 hours — down from the double-digit increases the state was seeing last week. Newsom said there is a sense of optimism about the curve of cases bending lower.
“We are seeing a slow and steady increase, but it’s moderate,”″ he said. “And it’s moderate, again, because of the actions all of you have taken in terms of the physical distancing.”
While physical distancing has helped slow the spread of the virus, it has also hobbled the state’s economy. Non-essential businesses have closed and 2.3 million Californians have filed for unemployment benefits in the last four weeks.
The state Legislature has recessed until May 4, but the idea of a state stimulus appears to have support among Democrats, who have super majorities in both chambers. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon confirmed lawmakers are considering a proposal that would help immigrants living in the country illegally, while state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins said she supports any efforts to bring “much needed resources to all of our communities.”
“The state is going to have to step in to support a segment of our community that the federal government will ignore,” said state Sen. Holly Mitchell, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee.