Concord’s undocumented residents find delays to getting state relief

Eye on Concord by George FulmoreSometimes, when you try to help a large number of people at the same time, there’s just no way to do it without some chaos.

In April, the State of California announced that it would distribute $75 million to undocumented immigrant households to aid this group which may not be eligible for other relief programs in this COVID-19 pandemic. Each household could receive up to $1,000. As many as 150,000 households were expected to receive some of the funding.

In his announcement, Governor Newsom said, “California is the most diverse state in the nation. Our diversity makes us stronger and more resilient. Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis. We are all in this together.”

But how was the distribution of this money to happen?

An announcement made last week told applicants to call a local non-profit on Monday at 9 a.m. For Concord, the local non-profit is Catholic Charities, which has an office on Diamond Blvd. But applications could be submitted only by phone.

As early as 8 a.m. Monday, callers were receiving the message, “This mailbox is full.  Please call back later.” This continued through the day.

So much for a smooth, successful implementation?

California has at least 2 million undocumented residents. That equates to about 6,000 in the city of Concord, or at least 3,000 households that may be eligible to receive some of the relief.

Catholic Charities is on the hook not only to receive calls, but also to “vet” callers to ensure that their applications are accurate and that they qualify for benefits. That takes time.

For the most part, Concord’s undocumented residents try hard to stay out of the limelight. Most of the adults have been in the U.S. for 15-20 years, but many have never gotten a driver’s license, or let it be known in any other official way that they exist. They tend to live “in the shadows,” hoping to make the best for themselves, their children, and their extended families; waiting for a day when true immigration reform is enacted in our country.

The point here is that it is a rare day that undocumented immigrants in our midst are recognized as such, even though, as the Governor has said, “We are all in this together.”

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