HARTFORD, CT — The state of Connecticut will be giving $2.5 million to about 2,500 undocument families to help them pay their rent.
The funding, along with another $1 million in small cash donations from the philanthropic organization 4-CT, was announced Wednesday morning outside the offices of Make the Road CT.
The organization has been advocating for financial help for the state’s 120,000 undocumented residents who are excluded from receiving any federal emergency assistance even if they have children who are American citizens.
Veronica Ubaldo, a Mexican immigrant who has been living in Connecticut for 25 years and became a U.S. citizen in 2015, said her community was “exploited by the government by this pandemic.”
“People who contribute to this country every day, they were left out at the most tragic time,” Ubaldo said.
She said many in the community have lost their jobs and they don’t have money to pay the rent or their bills.
“We deserve more,” Ubaldo said.
The rental assistance offered by the state will be doled out in $1,000 increments to about 2,500 families.
She thanked Gov. Ned Lamont for the money, but said it was only the first step.
“Even though it’s $2.5 million, it’s not enough,” Ubaldo said.
Kica Matos, a New Haven immigrant rights advocate, said the undocumented community contributes $125 million a year to Connecticut’s economy and they deserve much more than the $3.5 million in help announced Wednesday.
“It is a good start, but let me just be clear: it is not enough,” Matos said. “The need is great and families are desperate.”
Matos said she would continue to urge Lamont to get the state to contribute more money.
Ubaldo said phase two of the state’s commitment should be $30 to $100 million.
Lamont said he wants to wait and see if the federal government sends Connecticut any more money. He said he doesn’t expect that to happen until the end of June, at which point the state can determine how much money it will have to give this population knowing that federal funds cannot be used to help undocumented residents.
Undocumented residents don’t qualify for government assistance programs like food stamps or Medicaid. They also don’t qualify for unemployment if they get laid off during this pandemic.
“I think it’s a good investment by the state,” Lamont said.
Ted Yang, co-founder and CEO of 4-CT, said he hopes the program can offer a bridge to these families to get on more stable footing.
The program to distribute the $1 million will engage trusted community-based organizations as partners that will write “prescriptions” for cash assistance. Recipients will take these prescriptions to community health centers partnering with the program for validation, where they will receive gift cards to help pay for expenses like food and clothing.
The $2.5 million in rental assistance will be distributed by the state Department of Housing.
“Housing is the single largest expense for most families in Connecticut,” Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno said. “ By providing rental support for families who are most in need and least able to access other forms of assistance, we can help them to stretch tight family budgets to afford other expenses including food, transportation to jobs, and other necessities.”
Some immigrant rights groups were more offended by the small amount of funding than others.
“One million dollars is like giving a few coins to every immigrant in our state,” said Carmen Lanche, the coordinator of ULA in Norwalk, who had no income for nearly three months when her husband was laid off because of the pandemic.
“What’s more, this $1 million does not even come out of the coffers of the state that swell every year with the hundreds of thousands of dollars contributed by our community—the undocumented workers who are ‘essential’ and excluded,” said Lanche.
“Why don’t they cut money from police departments and other institutions that commit violence against us?” said John Lugo, Community Organizing Director of ULA in New Haven. “Why don’t they collect the money from all the billionaires and millionaires in the state, and from those institutions that historically profited off of slavery like Yale University? This is a rich state, but our people are lining up at food banks getting crumbs.”