Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News

Advocacy Groups Say Undocumented Utahns Excluded From $154 Million In Assistance During Pandemic

Photo illustration showing an open envelope with a note in side that says overdue
agil73 via iStock
Alexandria Taylor said her family fell behind on their bills because neither she nor her husband could work while their family was sick with COVID-19. But because of her family's mixed-documentation status, they didn't qualify for federal assistance.

Alexandria Taylor has three daughters, all under the age of 15. She and her children, along with her husband, were all infected with COVID-19. She said it shut down their lives for almost two months. 

“Although we stopped because we all got sick, the world around us didn’t,” Taylor said.

Her husband is the main source of income for their home, and he stayed home from work to care for her and their children. Taylor said bills started piling up, and they got behind on their mortgage payment.

Screengrab of a woman talking on a video call and wiping her eye with a tissue
Credit Screengrab of video call
Alexandria Taylor wipes her eyes as she speaks in a video call via the Voices for Utah Children Facebook account.

But while other families and individuals received federal stimulus checks and unemployment benefits to make up for lost income, Taylor’s family didn’t.

Taylor is a citizen, as are her three children, but her husband isn’t. Because of their status as a mixed-documentation household, they missed out on federal help earlier this year.

“My husband has worked and paid taxes continuously for 20 plus years and was excluded from the stimulus because of his immigration status,” she said.

An analysis from Voices For Utah Children and Comunidades Unidas estimates there are at least 79,000 undocumented Utahns. Most live in Salt Lake County and work in jobs like hospitality or retail — industries that have been hit hard economically by the pandemic. 

But they haven’t had access to federal or traditional state unemployment benefits.

Maria Montes, community engagement coordinator with Comunidades Unidas, said immigrants aren’t asking for a handout.

“They pay taxes,” Montes said. “As such, we must extend all aid to them as well.”

To help, Utah’s Department of Workforce Services implemented a rental assistance program for undocumented people in May, after the state’s eviction freeze ended. Other states, like California and Oregon, have provided direct funding to undocumented people who don’t qualify for other forms of assistance.

Montes said her organization has been working with cities and nonprofits to create a fund to help immigrant communities. She invited others to join them.

“We have the opportunity to rectify the situation,” she said. “We have the opportunity to lead with our shared values of love, compassion and kindness for each other.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the Hispanic and Latino community has accounted for the second highest number of COVID-19 cases.

Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Means13

KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.