Oregon Worker Relief Fund Receives Additional Support

The program received an additional $36 million to support the thousands of undocumented, immigrant Oregonians who have been impacted by the pandemic

Feb. 4, 2021

The Oregon Worker Relief Fund — a program that provides financial relief to Oregonians who have lost wages due to the pandemic but are denied unemployment insurance and federal stimulus relief due to their immigration status — has received $36 million to provide additional assistance to immigrants impacted by the pandemic. The funds will be allocated as follows: 

  • $30 million will be sent to the general Oregon Worker Relief Fund, which is aimed for undocumented immigrants who have lost wages or their jobs due to the pandemic. 
  • $6 million will be allocated to the Quarantine Fund which supports those who have been exposed to COVID-19. 

Oregon’s Emergency Board provided the much needed funds as part of an emergency decision due to the pandemic disproportionately impacting the immigrant community, which includes Black communities, Indigenous communities and people of color. Immigrant focused organizations throughout the state have heard from community members who have lost their jobs, have had hours cut or have needed to quarantine and are seeking help paying bills and for medical care. 

Armando, a ranch worker from Redmond, talked to Latino Community Association in search of financial help after his hours were drastically cut. “Now I don’t have income for anything,” he said. Although the family’s rent is covered, other bills piled up. “I have a lot of stress from not earning an income.” With the help of LCA and the OWRF, he has since been able to pay for his family’s necessities.

However, these funds have been quickly depleted as there’s much need in the community. It’s estimated that Oregon is home to over 432,000 immigrants, with 110,000 of those immigrants being undocumented. While many of these Oregonians work in essential jobs that have kept our state going throughout this emergency, immigrant communities have seen reduced hours or a denial of quarantine benefits. 

That’s why community organizations have stepped up to create support systems for our most vulnerable workers. While Congress has enacted federal relief packages, immigrants have been excluded from these relief efforts due to their legal status. Over 100 organizations have banded together to create this fund and provide relief to the thousands of immigrants and their families impacted by the pandemic and the emergency. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought together our communities to offer mutual aid,” said Miriam Vargas Corona, Unidos Bridging Community’s Executive Director. “Our neighbors who have lost their employment or lost their hours from work know that they will get financial relief navigation through community organizations that they trust, that speak their language and who understand their fears when asking for assistance.”

Already, the OWRF has helped nearly 25,000 Oregonians and distributed over $40 million directly to the community. With these additional funds, thousands more Oregonians will be able to receive the help they need. Call center agents are already calling those who have been on the program’s waitlist since December and will begin taking new applications for the fund on Monday, Feb. 8. 

“It is always saddening to hear about the immense financial hardship that many of our neighbors experience, especially given that they are ineligible to receive federal relief,” said Kevin Alejandrez, a program navigator with Centro de Servicios Para Campesinos. “As a coalition, we help navigate people through the application process while also providing additional resources and referrals as needed. But while we were collectively able to assist thousands of families in 2020, we recognize that the pandemic is not over. We are ready to continue our efforts in assisting our neighbors as best we can.”

To ensure a smooth rollout, the coalition overseeing the OWRF has also planned a community forum on Saturday, Feb. 6. It will provide community members an opportunity to learn about the program and ask questions in Spanish and several indigenous languages. 

To learn more about the fund or support these efforts, please visit the OWRF website. For the latest news on the program or to RSVP for the community forum, please visit the Alivio Laboral de Oregon Facebook page.