Immigrant Families To Receive $3.5 Million In COVID Relief

June 04, 2020 - 8:24 am
Gov. Ned Lamont holds news conference in his office, 2/19/20

Aaron Kupec/WTIC Radio photo

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTIC and AP) — Some struggling immigrant families in Connecticut without legal status will receive a share of $3.5 million in public and private money for COVID-19 relief.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont announced Wednesday that $2.5 million in state-funded grants to landlords will be provided on behalf of renters who are ineligible for similar aid under the federal CARES Act.

Additionally, the nonprofit philanthropic organization 4-CT plans to make $1 million — in the form of one-time debit cards in denominations of $200 or $400 — available to Connecticut families excluded from federal relief programs.

Grassroots immigrant rights groups will help identify families for the financial assistance and send them to local clinics, where medical staff will first offer COVID-19 testing before providing the debit cards. The state has prioritized the testing of densely populated urban centers to keep track of future outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Advocates estimate there are roughly 120,000 immigrants living in Connecticut without legal status, representing about 4.9% of the state's workforce. These immigrants, as well as any U.S. citizen filing taxes with a spouse who does not have legal status, and the U.S. citizen children of these parents, have been ineligible for the federal pandemic relief benefits, according to the governor's office.

“This is a population that doesn’t get any federal benefits. This is a population that pays taxes and is otherwise being left behind, despite their amazing contributions to our state and our economy,” Lamont said. “And that’s why this is important to me.”

Immigrant advocates repeatedly called Wednesday's announcement a first step, noting the need is great and workers have not had income for more than two months. There have been public calls for Lamont to create a $120 million disaster relief fund for immigrants in the country illegally.

“It is a good start, but let me just be clear, it is not enough," said Kica Matos, director of the Center for Immigration and Justice at the Vera Institute in New Haven. “The need is great and families are desperate."

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or lead to death.

As of Wednesday, there have been more than 43,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,989 associated deaths in Connecticut, an increase of 17 since Tuesday. More than 400 people are hospitalized, a decline of 28 s