SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The 805 Undocufund, established during the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslides of 2017-18, is now being re-launched to help undocumented families make it through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus crisis has forced local restaurants, bars and hotels to partially or completely shut down. Many hourly workers have been laid off or had hours cut, and several of them are undocumented immigrants.
Unlike U.S. citizens, undocumented immigrants do not qualify for unemployment benefits. Those now without normal pay due to the novel coronavirus outbreak will struggle to make payments or feed their families.
The fund will be open in Santa Barbara County for the first time since the Thomas Fire. It opened in Ventura County in late 2018 during the Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire.
“Undocumented immigrants have been the backbone of our economy,” said FLA executive director Eder Gaona-Macedo, who himself was undocumented until 2016. “We gotta make sure that we have a safety net for undocumented families and that they do have funds to get them through this pandemic.”
Gaona-Macedo estimates that there are more than 40,000 undocumented immigrants in Santa Barbara County. Many have children who work with Gaona-Macedo at FLA, and have recently expressed concerns about their parents now being without a job.
The 805 Undocufund has raised more than $2.5 million for about 1,700 families since 2018, but Gaona-Macedo says more families will need help and more donations will be necessary during this crisis.
“This is trickling down,” Gaona-Macedo said. “It’s not just affecting the head of households. It’s affecting the children and the students that we work with… it’s not time to play politics. It’s not time to get into the weeds of things, but rather provide assistance to human beings.”
The Undocufund is hiring a coordinator and two associates to process applications and distribute funds to families,
The fund also needs donations and volunteers.