Newsom urged to provide more funds to immigrants, workers during pandemic

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and other bishops from California, Hawaii and Nevada arrive to concelebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major while making their “ad limina” visits in Rome Jan. 30, 2020. California bishops are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to increase aid to immigrants in the country without documents and low-wage workers during the coronavirus pandemic. CNS photo/Paul Haring

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) — California’s Catholic bishops have asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to increase aid to immigrants without documents and low-wage residents of the state “because the virus doesn’t know the difference between someone who has the right legal documents and those who do not.”

Pope Francis, on Easter, spoke to the world and urged solidarity in this moment of crisis. He asked all governments “to recognize that the equal and fundamental human dignity of every human person — not economic class or status of documentation — must be the central principle of forging assistance programs in this moment of crisis.”

Newsom has already extended stimulus aid to California residents who do not have legal status, and the Catholic bishops in an April 20 letter to the governor asked him to go further as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on California, the nation and the world.

On April 15, Newsom said the state is creating a $125 million disaster assistance fund for these Californians who have not benefited from expanded unemployment or the federal stimulus. About 150,000 adult Californians without documents will receive a one-time cash benefit of $500 per adult with a cap of $1,000 per household.

In their letter, the bishops asked the governor to, among other things, expand State Disability Insurance eligibility to workers who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19 but who are ineligible for unemployment insurance; to send payments of $1,200 to all Californians who qualified for the California Earned Income Tax Credit last year or this year, as well as to any filer who used an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and meets the same income levels as the state’s earned income tax credit recipients.

The prelates also asked Newsom to ensure that COVID-19 treatment, not just testing, is covered under California’s Emergency MediCal; to expand no-cost or low-cost hotel options to workers who are essential to maintaining California’s food supply and need a place to live to be able to work; and to make more money available to food banks and school districts to expand their capacity to get food and information about new relief programs to families in need.

Extending assistance to all residents during the pandemic is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, the bishops said. “Many undocumented migrants tend our fields and produce the agricultural products that sustains much of the nation.”

By extending protection to people without permanent status, the governor “will help to protect all Californians,” the bishops said.

Their letter was released by the California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops.