Giving Compass' Take:

• The David and Lucile Packard Foundation is supporting Project Ayuda to help undocumented farmworkers - essential workers who were excluded from the CARES Act. 

• What role can you play in supporting essential workers who are undocumented? What supports do these workers need? 

• Find funds supporting immigrant and refugee communities during COVID-19.

Beginning in April of 2020, many Americans received stimulus payments from the federal government under the CARES Act. Unfortunately, it was a program for which undocumented residents were ineligible, despite the fact that many of them faced equal or greater danger from continued work through the COVID crisis.

That’s why, in June, the Packard Foundation made a $1 million grant to the Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) to help jumpstart a program called Project Ayuda.

Project Ayuda (Spanish for “help”) provides disaster relief payments to undocumented residents and their households affected by the coronavirus pandemic in the San Joaquin Valley counties of Tulare, Kern, and Fresno. To implement it, CVCF partnered with the UFW Foundation, a charity that manages critical services for immigrant communities (including disbursing relief funds to undocumented residents through a similar but separate State of California program). For Project Ayuda, the UFW Foundation partnered with, issuing preloaded debit cards to undocumented agricultural workers who were determined eligible. Each participant receives $500, with a maximum of two recipients per household.

“The CARES program completely missed individuals and families who are undocumented,” explains Elliott Balch, chief operating officer at CVCF. “These workers are absolutely essential to our community wellbeing and to our state’s economic health. The project was born out of the need to quickly supplement a Federal program that clearly wasn’t sufficient or inclusive enough. The resources that the Packard Foundation provided will not come close to meeting the needs of the entire population, but they are going a long way toward alleviating some of the worst uncertainty, suffering and pain.”

As of August 23, more than 1,250 individuals had been approved for assistance under the program, Balch said, and payments had already been processed for at least 420 of those beneficiaries.

According to CVCF communications manager Laura Maciel, COVID-19 only added to the burdens that hundreds of thousands of undocumented agricultural workers were already experiencing on a daily basis before the pandemic arrived.

“Farmworkers in the Central Valley have been especially vulnerable because they tend to have very few choices where work and housing are concerned,” explained Maciel. “You often have multiple families living in one home. So, if someone gets sick, they are not only putting coworkers at risk, but their families as well. There is no luxury to isolate for many of these households.”

Read the full article about Project Ayuda at The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.