SALEM, Ore.—The Emergency Board of the Oregon Legislature today approved an initial $10 million for the Oregon Worker Relief Fund with bipartisan support. The fund will provide financial support to Oregon workers who have lost their jobs yet are ineligible for Unemployment Insurance and federal stimulus relief due to their immigration status, and despite contributing to federal, state, and local taxes.
Causa, PCUN, Latino Network, APANO, Innovation Law Lab, MRG and over 100 community partners created the Oregon Worker Relief Fund to provide rapid, community-based financial relief to immigrant Oregonians. The groups say 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.
According to the Oregon Center for Public Policy, one in every 10 Oregon children live with a family member who is undocumented. Job losses can quickly lead to housing and food instability for Oregon families. Also, state reports show that Latinx people in Oregon have been hit hard by the pandemic, disproportionately testing positive for COVID-19.
Advocates across the state applauded the Oregon Legislature for supporting the Oregon Worker Relief Fund:
Adriana Miranda, executive director of Causa Oregon, said, “Immigrant Oregonians and their families have been ravaged by COVID-19. They are the backbone of our communities and economies and have been the most disproportionately impacted. This is a great first step, but only a first step.”
Ricardo Lujan, advocacy director of Latino Network, said, “Today marks the beginning of a long process of support and rebuilding for our community - as well as the reinforced commitment the Oregon Legislature has shown for immigrant Oregonians. Our communities are hurting and there is a long journey ahead of us, but our people are resilient and our will to determine our own futures is stronger than the hardships we are currently experiencing.”
Reyna Lopez, executive director of PCUN, said, “About 15,000 farmworkers in Oregon would be eligible for the Oregon Worker Relief Fund - currently these essential workers have no access to unemployment insurance, and less so to the emergency stimulus supports. Oregon is doing right by workers falling through the cracks, bringing money directly in the hands of Oregonians who will spend the money right away on bills, rent, and groceries. This will keep our economies moving, and our families from financial ruin.”
Michele Ruffin, political director at Forward Together Action, said, “We know Oregon’s immigrant families are hurting right now — and the federal government response has left our communities behind. That’s why the Oregon Worker Relief Fund is so important - it’s Oregonians taking care of Oregonians and making sure that no one has to struggle with COVID-19 on their own.”
Susannah Morgan, CEO of Oregon Food Bank, said, “Hunger is a symptom of unequal access to healthy food and barriers to employment, education, housing and health care. What this crisis has taught us is that with adequate public investment we can dramatically reduce hunger in Oregon as long as all families are included. That’s why the Oregon Worker Relief Fund is critical.”
Nancy Haque, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, said, “This is an incredible first step for the Oregon Worker Relief Fund. And we will keep advocating and fighting for our immigrant friends and neighbors who have been most severely impacted by COVID-19. This is about fairness and helping one another weather the most difficult times."
Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said, “The Oregon Worker Relief Fund is a needed first step toward fairness that will make it possible for many of our immigrant neighbors, friends, and family members to access care or put food on the table during this pandemic. We applaud the Oregon Legislature for taking action on behalf of immigrant Oregonians today.”
Emily McLain, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, said, “Many immigrants are part of the Planned Parenthood community and rely on Planned Parenthood for health care, education and advocacy. Immigrant Oregonians already face barriers in accessing health care and have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. We appreciate the Legislature taking this first step to support the Oregon Worker Relief Fund to ensure that no Oregonian is left behind.”