Things That Matter

Undocumented Immigrants In California Can Now Apply For COVID-19 Financial Assistance

Update May 20, 2020, 9:16 p.m. PST: Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. have been left in the dark when it comes to government assistance to weather the COVID-19 crisis. Yet, California has set aside $75 million to offer aid to undocumented immigrants living in the state.

Undocumented Californians can apply for a one-time relief payment from the state government.

California Governor Gavin Newsom created a fund to help ease the financial burden of the health crisis on 150,000 undocumented people living in the state. Those who qualify are eligible for one-time payments of $500 and up to $1,000 total per household. The fund was created to help undocumented people who are being left out of federal relief payments.

“We know that money is limited and doesn’t reflect the amount of taxes that the undocumented pay in California,” Olimpia Blanco, a coordinator at Carecen, told The New York Times. “We believe we owe it to the community to make the process as equitable as possible and uphold the first-come, first-served nature of it.”

The relief payments will help millions of children living with undocumented parents.

The children, while U.S. citizens, are not eligible for federal funds because of their age. California’s plans are a way to bridge that gap created by the federal government to relieve as many people living in the U.S. as possible. Undocumented people contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. in taxes every year. These tax dollars are what is being used to fund the federal $2.2 trillion stimulus package that has bailed out major corporations.

California is one of a handful of states that are implementing programs to help their undocumented communities stay afloat during the pandemic. In other states, cities and organizations have picked up the responsibility of helping their undocumented community.

Original: In March, the federal government passed a record $2.2 trillion stimulus plan meant to help dampen the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Part of the stimulus bill included $1,200 cash payments to all eligible U.S. residents – however, the bill left out millions of tax-paying migrants.

Since the bill passed, Democratic lawmakers in Congress have tried to introduce additional legislation that would provide relief to vulernable undocumented populations – many of whom are working in jobs deemed “essential” by state and local governments. But so far they’ve come up short.

California becomes the first state in the country to introduce Coronavirus relief funds to undocumented residents.

During his daily press briefing, Newsom said the state is committing $125 million to undocumented workers through a public-private partnership, that will include $75 million in state funds for disaster relief assistance and additional $50 million pledged by a group of philanthropic partners.

“Even if there’s gaps, we can help begin to fill them,” Newsom said. “I’m not here to suggest that $125 million is enough. But I am here to suggest that it’s a good start and I’m very proud it’s starting here in the state of California.”

Approximately 150,000 undocumented adult Californians will receive a one-time cash benefit of $500 from the state fund, with a cap of $1,000 per household, to deal with “specific needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a release from the governor’s office.

Undocumented residents pay billions in taxes but up until have been ineligible for any financial aid.

In announcing the move, Newsom stressed that undocumented workers are essential and overrepresented in many sectors keeping the state afloat, including health care, agriculture and food, manufacturing and logistics and construction.

It’s estimated that about 10% of California’s workforce is undocumented. And though they paid over $2.5 billion in local and state taxes last year, they benefit from neither unemployment insurance nor the $2.2 trillion stimulus signed by President Trump. Private donors to the $50 million philanthropy effort include the Emerson Collective, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, James Irvine Foundation, California Endowment and Blue Shield Foundation, Newsom said. 

Since the pandemic hit California, other grassroots financial assistance programs for undocumented workers affected by COVID-19-related job losses have been created in San Francisco and Sonoma CountyA relief fund for local migrant youth was launched in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and Alameda counties and recently reopened its application process.

Immigrant advocate groups quickly applauded the state’s efforts.

Credit: @NILC / Twitter

“This virus doesn’t discriminate — it doesn’t care about race, class, or wealth. Our response to this crisis shouldn’t either. California is leading at a time when Congress should be doing more for immigrants in #COVID19 relief efforts,” the National Immigration Law Center said on Facebook.

“Today’s announcement is a necessary first step to close the widening gap between immigrants and vital assistance that could mean the difference between life and death for millions of Californians,” the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) said in a statement Wednesday.

Gov. Newsom also announced measures meant to support the growing population of unemployed residents.

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The state Employment Development Department has received a record 2.7 million new claims for regular jobless benefits since March 12. When you put that into comparison against the Great Recession in 2008, there were a total of 2.5 million unemployment claims.

The new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program approved by Congress will provide up to 39 weeks of benefits retroactive to Feb. 2 for those who have lost income between that date and the week ending Dec.31. The program also will provide an additional $600 per week in benefits until July 31.

The efforts to more quickly distribute benefits to struggling Californians come after criticism that the state is lagging behind.

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Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) said Wednesday that other states, including Michigan and New York, had already begun sending out benefits to independent contractors and the self-employed. California, he said, has acted “way too slowly. They are behind a lot of other states.”

Newsom’s comments came a day after state Labor Secretary Julie Su announced that a new online portal would be created in the next two weeks allowing independent contractors, gig workers and the self-employed to file documents to obtain benefits.

Working From Home Can Impact Your Mental Health, Here’s How To Stay Sane And Healthy

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Working From Home Can Impact Your Mental Health, Here’s How To Stay Sane And Healthy

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A recent survey shows that thirty-five percent of workers who telecommute said their mental health had deteriorated as a result of doing so amid the coronavirus lockdown. As someone who has gone from working in a social, fun-filled, compassionate office space, I can consider myself part of that 35%.

Although working from home (for those privileged enough to do so) is a necessity for our safety and that of the community – it definitely presents some unique challenges.

Yes, the benefits are many: avoiding transit problems and the stress of commuting; sidestepping office politics; adopting a flexible schedule that allows for chores and errands to be incorporated into the work day; more time with family and pets; and a break on keeping up a business wardrobe and other appearance-related expenses.

But there’s a dark side. It’s an arrangement that fosters isolation and disconnection, two conditions that feed the greedy depression monster.

Here are some excellent tips for taking care of your mental health during these unprecedented times.

Break up your workday

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Some common challenges when working from home during the pandemic is the lack of stimulation and connection to people you used to see regularly. This can become a bit confusing, so it’s great to try to break up the schedule.

One of the best tips for working from home that I’ve discovered is breaking up the work day with movement. This can be a quick burst of movement (like jumping jacks, or lifting kettle bells) or some lower impact movement like a walk. I’m also a huge fan of taking a mid-afternoon break (longer than your typical 30-minute lunch break) to go on a long walk or run errands.

Get a routine and stick to it

Routine is essential, and it’s even more important when structure is missing.

Sticking to a routine does not mean that you have to abide by the old standard 9-5 office hours, and only take downtime in the evening. It simply means that you have a system for waking up on time, getting ready, feeling confident and getting your work done in a timely manner. 

When you do this regularly enough, it will feel more natural over time, and you won’t have to think about it so much. For me, this has meant taking my dogs out on a walk to get a coffee in the morning and then coming home and getting to work – it’s like creating my own little commute.

Stay connected

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Remember to keep up with friends and family, even if that can only be done through a Zoom or FaceTime call. Text someone you care about, and when restrictions are lifted in your area, try to make plans as regularly as you feel comfortable.

Connection is key, and it can be challenging when you don’t leave your home for long stretches of time.

It’s also helpful to join platforms of people doing similar work as you and interacting with them throughout the day. Or you can join an online book club or participate in volunteer work – having this sort of obligation will go a long way in helping you show up when you don’t feel great.

Incorporate wellness activities into your day

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One of the biggest perks of working from home is that you get to do things you might not be able to if you’re in an office all day.

I’ve been doing 20 minute walks around my neighborhood while listening to music. This moves the energy in the body and allow us to to have a shift in consciousness, which is so important when you’ve been isolated in front of a computer screen.

Another way to experience new energy in the body is to pause from work, find a comfortable place to sit, and then do deep belly breaths. This involves taking one deep breath in, and then focus on the exhale. You’ll notice your shoulders will relax, and your body will feel lighter.

Learn how to detach

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It’s so important when working from home that you keep your work and personal lives and actual physical areas totally separate. For many, it may not be possible to create an actual separate office space but you can create workspaces outside of your most “lived in” spaces. That’s what matters most.

There is a risk that working hours will get longer if the boundaries between work and personal life become blurred. It is necessary to establish a rigid system in which work can be carried out in a planned manner, such as by setting working hours and the timing of contact with supervisors.

No matter what you do, remember that working from home is yet another “new normal” to get used to — and the sooner you adapt to what makes you most productive, healthy, and mentally well, the better.

Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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There are millions of people just itching for a vacation right now, and Cancun wants to welcome visitors with open arms. However, there’s a huge problem with their plan. Most of the country is still in a severe phase of the pandemic – with all 32 states reporting daily increases in confirmed Covid-19 cases.

In cities such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, even locals aren’t allowed to venture far from their homes and restrictions on shopping, dining, and exercising are still in full force.

However, the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), has resumed his cross-country travels and is trying to portray a ‘new normal’ – the problem is little has changed to prevent further outbreaks.

Cancun is aiming to open its doors to tourists from June 10 – but it makes zero sense given the actual situation on the ground.

Quintana Roo, home to the famed beaches of Cancun and Tulum, will resume activities next week – according to the governor, Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez. The state, which depends heavily on tourism, has lost over 83,000 jobs in the last few months due to the pandemic, and with reopening the state could see an economic rebound. However, that entirely depends on the success and implementation of safety measures.

In a press conference, the governor said that tourists could start arriving in the Caribbean destination as soon as June 8th. He added that tourism is an essential activity and that there is no other of greater importance in Quintana Roo “and we are going to fight for it to be considered that way.”

He stressed during the public address that for the opening to happen by June 10th, protocols and hygiene measures must be followed to protect workers and tourists from Covid-19.

And he has good reason to reopen. According to a new survey by Expedia, ‘Cancun flights’ is one of the top 5 searches on the platform. In the same survey, Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Isla Mujeres (all located in Quintana Roo) were announced as three of the most internationally sought after destinations.

Meanwhile, AMLO has launched a cross-country tour touting the lifting of Coronavirus restrictions.

Credit: Rebecca Blackwell / Getty

President AMLO also held his daily press conference from the state of Quintana Roo to mark the beginning of Mexico’s economic reopening and resume his tours across the country.

But this too makes zero sense. Yes, the government has mandated that states can begin lifting restrictions – if they’re no longer declared ‘red zones.’ However, every state in the country is still in the red, with many seeing peak infection numbers.

It’s just the most recent example of confusing messaging from the president.

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While AMLO is eager to get the country reopened and put Mexicans back to work, Coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country. Mexico has now recorded the seventh-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker, with nearly 10,000 virus-related fatalities and almost 100,000 confirmed cases. Testing in the country is low and health officials acknowledge that the numbers are likely much higher.

The federal government unveiled a red-light/green-light system to implement reopening procedures state by state. But currently every state is still in ‘red-light’ phase – meaning stay-at-home orders are still in full effect – making AMLO’s messaging extremely confusing.

Time and time again, the president has downplayed the virus outbreak and has criticized stay-at-home orders for harming the economy.

Keep in mind, however, that non-essential travel between the U.S. and Mexico is still largely banned.

Since March, all non-essential travel has been banned between the U.S. and Mexico. However, that ban is currently set to expire on June 22. It’s possible both sides could extend the travel ban, but given AMLO’s rhetoric it isn’t likely he’ll keep the country closed to tourists for much longer.

However, it’s important to point that out even if you technically can travel – right now you really shouldn’t. In much of Mexico, confirmed Covid-19 cases are on the rise with many cities across the country just now entering it’s worst phase.