Oregon Worker Relief Fund Distributes $750,000 in Aid to Immigrant Oregonians

The innovative fund is on track to distribute $10.5 million dollars in statewide relief to at least 6,000 Oregonians by July. 

PORTLAND, Ore.—Immigrants’ rights advocates, together with Causa Oregon, PCUN, Latino Network, Innovation Law Lab, and APANO, today announced that the Oregon Worker Relief Fund (OWRF) distributed $750,000 in a first round of aid. Funds were disbursed to immigrants in Oregon facing financial hardships due to COVID-19, but who were excluded from federal stimulus relief or Unemployment Insurance due to their immigration status. 

“Oregonians are coming together so that all of our community’s essential workers and their families ーwhich includes farm workers, food-processing workers, housekeepers, construction workers, landscapers, caregivers and day laborersー are able to survive the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Adriana Miranda, executive director of Causa Oregon.

Individuals who received aid in the first round included essential immigrant workers who tested positive with COVID-19, rationed food for themselves and their families, and stopped buying critical medicine. As parents, many workers were forced to choose between paying for internet so their children could attend school or buying food and paying rent.

“The need is heartbreaking,” said Martha Sonato, political director at PCUN. “The Oregon Worker Relief Fund is critical to help immigrant Oregonians make ends meet during the pandemic. These individuals and families who have contributed to Oregon’s collective prosperity cannot be forgotten.”

The OWRF is a multimillion-dollar initiative created in collaboration with more than 100 community partners throughout Oregon to provide temporary financial support to immigrant Oregonians during the COVID-19 crisis. Community partners are working quickly to simultaneously build online infrastructure, deploy resources and continue fundraising to address urgent and significant needs for immigrant Oregonian workers and families. 

“Thousands of immigrant families in Oregon are facing economic hardship as a result of COVID-19.” says Ricardo Lujan Valerio, advocacy director at the Latino Network. “State reports show that Latinx people in Oregon have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic: Latinx Oregonians account for 22% of all cases of COVID-19 in the state, yet represent just 13% of the state’s population.” 

The OWRF coalition has developed an innovative, rapid response infrastructure to reach community members across the entire state, adhere to all public health recommendations, and deliver aid rapidly. Currently, 16 community-based organizations cover different regions and impacted communities with trained personnel acting as “navigators” to interview and document the need. Applications are submitted using an integrated, secure online platform. Every application is reviewed centrally and if approved, funds are disbursed using mobile payments and checks. 

The Oregon Worker Relief Fund is supported by individual donors, philanthropic organizations, and state and local funding. The Oregon Legislature last month approved an initial $10 million for the fund with bipartisan support.

“Advocates have done an incredible job putting this essential program together,” said House Speaker Tina Kotek. “I will continue to do all I can to support workers that are falling through the cracks and ensure no Oregonian gets left behind in this recovery.”

The City of Portland has also earmarked $250,000 to the fund. The fund also has received nearly $1.5 million in support from several philanthropic foundations including MRG, Oregon Food Bank, Ford Family Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Oregon Community Foundation, Collins, Northwest Health Foundation as well as thousands of individual donors. 

There are an estimated 74,000 workers without legal status in Oregon, many of whom have jobs key to the state’s prosperity including farmworkers, food-processing workers, housekeepers, construction workers, landscapers, care-givers, and day laborers. Some of these industries have been devastated by the coronavirus crisis. Additionally, one in every 10 children in Oregon live with a family member who is undocumented.

Individuals can give to the Oregon Worker Relief Fund at https://www.workerrelief.org/donate/

Video and audio of the Oregon Worker Relief Fund press conference is available to view or download online at https://zoom.us/rec/share/1PZXBvbV_U9OGJXOtW6AcYUFF6n5aaa81iBLr_sKyR5vH0itV1ZEGSXfXpyf5WgI. Password: 6r@=##=d