In response to the increased community spread of COVID-19, Future Leaders of America (FLA) announced Tuesday that the 805 UndocuFund will reactivate to provide financial support for undocumented individuals and families.
The joint venture between FLA, Mixteco/Indigenous Community Organizing Project (MICOP), and the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) was originally established in 2018 in response to the Thomas Fire and subsequent Montecito mudslide. Because these natural disasters resulted in the closure of hotels, restaurants, and other service-based industries, the people working these jobs found themselves out of work. This included many undocumented individuals, who FLA Executive Director Eder Gaona-Macedo called the “backbone of the local service industry.”
With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Santa Barbara County on the rise, Gaona-Macedo told the Sun that undocumented people are again facing the stress of service sector closures—this time, on a much larger scale.
FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
FUNDING THE FORGOTTEN Local nonprofits restarted a financial assistance program to help undocumented immigrants who have lost jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak but aren't included in federal or state relief packages. "Lou" is an undocumented immigrant who's name wasn't used to protect his identity.
“Because those disasters were happening in South County, we kept it focused down in West County Ventura and South Santa Barbara County,” Gaona-Macedo said of the fund’s history. “But given the sheer fact that COVID-19 is transcending ages, races, incomes, we just felt it was necessary to also be serving all of Santa Barbara County.”
Any undocumented person in Santa Barbara County is eligible to apply for the fund, Gaona-Macedo said. Those who have experienced financial stress as a result of COVID-19 are particularly encouraged to apply.
“It’s case-by-case,” Gaona-Macedo said of the fund’s capacity. “We’re definitely going to support undocumented workers who have no access to any type of support. Those are going to be a priority.”
Gaona-Macedo said that though the federal government continues to discuss potential financial relief for American citizens, these proposed stimulus packages often leave out undocumented people.
“They’re talking about sending cash grants to families,” Gaona-Macedo said. “For the most part, undocumented workers tend not to fit under that.”
The UndocuFund raised $2.5 million since its 2018 inception and provided financial assistance to 1,700 families in the past, Gaona-Macedo said. But with COVID-19 on the rise, right now is a critical time for the community to fundraise and support the fund. Donations can be made through the fund’s website at 805undocufund.org
“There’s also other things folks can do, including talking to individuals and spreading resources,” Gaona-Macedo said. “There are a lot of resources out there that may not be accessible to undocumented families.”