As the world struggles with the global coronavirus pandemic, unprecedented numbers of people need government assistance. Unfortunately, assistance is not available to everyone equally. So, in this time of need, the question many of you might be asking is: What kind of assistance am I eligible for?
The following is an overview of the financial options you may have as an immigrant during COVID-19.
Access to Unemployment Insurance
Unemployment insurance is available to anyone who was laid off, quarantined, or had their hours cut. You can also apply for unemployment if your child’s school is closed and you must miss work to take care of them. It provides partial income replacement, ranging between $40 to $450 weekly for up to 26 weeks in a 52-week period. You can get an estimate of how much you will receive by clicking here. Note that the CARES Act allows an additional emergency increase of $600 per week for each recipient of unemployment for up to 4 months (on top of the 26 weeks maximum from before).
To qualify, however, you must:
- Demonstrate satisfactory immigration status;
- Have paid into social security in the last 12 to 18 months;
- Have been authorized to work in the United States when making these wages; and
- Continue to be authorized to work while collecting benefits.
Due to these requirements, undocumented workers cannot collect unemployment. If you have a green card or a work permit, you are eligible for unemployment. However, if you have a work permit and it expires at some point while collecting unemployment, you will no longer be eligible to collect those benefits.
If you believe you are eligible for unemployment insurance, you can file online here.
Access to Disability Insurance
Disability insurance is available to anyone who gets sick or is exposed to the coronavirus, regardless of immigration status. At least in California, most people are covered by disability insurance as long as they file a disability claim and provide medical documentation showing they became ill with the coronavirus or have symptoms. Disability benefits can cover somewhere between 60-70% of your salary. Follow the link above or click here for more information about eligibility. To file a claim for disability insurance, visit here.
Paid Family Leave
If you are unable to work because you are taking care of someone who is sick or must be quarantined because of the coronavirus, you can also file a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim. This form of relief provides up to 6 weeks of benefit payments to those who have full or partial loss of wages caused by needing to take care of an ill family member. These benefits can cover about 60-70% of your lost wages (ranging between $50 to $1300 a week).
You can check your eligibility by following the link here. To file, visit here. This is the same link you would use to file for disability. They are similar because they are available to anyone, regardless of immigration status. In other words, even undocumented workers can take advantage of this as long as they meet the remaining criteria.
What About Legislative Relief for Undocumented Workers?
The recent legislative assistance, known as the CARES Act, aims to provide economic relief to millions of Americans in these difficult times. Notably, this will come in the form of a check of up to $1,200 per taxpaying individual.
Unfortunately, this act only applies to taxpayers with social security numbers, which many immigrants do not have. If you are working and paying taxes with a Social Security Number (SSN), which immigrants under several types of work visas or under DACA should have, then you will still be eligible for legislative relief. However, this leaves behind undocumented workers and the spouses and children of some H-1B visa holders, among others. Instead, these individuals often pay their taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
Although the CARES Act will not provide relief to taxpaying immigrants who file taxes using an ITIN, there is still hope for assistance in the future. Recently, new legislation known as the Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act, was introduced to amend the CARES Act and ensure all taxpayers are eligible for the $1,200 relief check. This is by no means a guarantee that aid will come to taxpayers without social security numbers, but it is a good sign that there are advocates for this group.
Another recently introduced bill is the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act, which also seeks to include everyone, regardless of immigration status, in the relief offered under the CARES act. The bill would also ensure that everyone would have access to COVID-19 testing, treatment, and eventual vaccines by providing Medicaid coverage regardless of immigration status.
Additionally, in California, Governor Newsom has expressed interest in providing relief to undocumented workers who are struggling as a result of the coronavirus. There are no specific details on this, and any potential relief won’t come at least until May, but it is another sign of potential relief for all immigrants—regardless of status.
Contact Yekrangi & Associates for More Information & Support
These are difficult times for everyone, and things can be particularly stressful and confusing for non-citizens. We want to help you and your loved ones during these trying times. We are personally dedicated to your success because we believe everyone deserves the opportunity to live and work safely in the United States.