ICIRR Wins Historic Immigrant Service and COVID Relief Investments in State Budget, But the Fight Continues
Illinois General Assembly Provides Over $90 Million in Key Relief in Response to Community Push--But Much More is Needed to Address Disparities
(Chicago--May 24, 2020) The Illinois General Assembly has concluded its special session to pass a state budget and address the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of our advocacy for our Everybody In platform, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) urged state legislators to address the needs of immigrants that the pandemic laid bare. In particular, ICIRR and our members and allies advocated that the state provide emergency relief for immigrant families who were excluded from federal tax rebates and assistance programs. ICIRR members engaged thousands of Illinois residents in pressuring legislators through emails, sign-on letters, pledges, phone calls, tweets and virtual town halls, all while sheltered in place. These efforts culminated in major investments in COVID relief for the state’s most vulnerable residents.
We applaud the General Assembly for providing significant funding for services to immigrant families. The budget passed provides over $90 million in investments to immigrant communities in response to the pandemic. It increases the Immigrant Services Line Item from $6.5 million to $30 million and provides $35 million in additional funding for the Department of Human Services welcoming centers for immigrants. The budget also allocates $32 million from federal COVID relief funding to the welcoming centers to assist families affected by the pandemic. Moreover, the budget includes significant investments in rental assistance to the state’s lowest-income renters and an expansion of Medicaid to vulnerable elderly uninsured residents in our state. Both of these supports are available to Illinois residents regardless of immigration status.
Immigrant communities have seen amongst the highest infection and unemployment rates in Illinois. ICIRR members heard countless accounts of community members losing their jobs and not knowing how they would put food on the table in the coming weeks with no safety net to fall back on. Coupled with the fact that the national relief excluded thousands of immigrants and mixed-status families, the state needed to fill in the gap where the federal government chose to leave people behind. These investments will have a real impact on many of our state’s most vulnerable and underserved populations.
Still, the numbers of immigrant families excluded from federal relief and the scale of the need require an even bolder response, as the investments will simply not be enough to meet the needs of everyone needing relief. Our state cannot fully recover unless all of our communities are included within that recovery.
In the coming months, ICIRR leaders will follow up with our elected representatives at all levels as well as other allies to discuss how we will continue to push for our Everybody In platform and provide what our communities need. In particular, we plan to build a campaign that engages voters in what caring, inclusive communities would look like, and how to move toward that vision.
“Our members fought hard and have won the largest investments in immigrant services and relief in the state’s history,” said ICIRR chief executive officer Lawrence Benito. “The scope of need in this pandemic, however, is unlike anything we’ve ever experienced for generations in this country. So our work is far from finished, and the fight is far from over. We will continue to mobilize our members and allies, as leaders and as voters, to push for the relief, recovery, and transformation that our neighborhoods, state, and country need.”
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 100 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit www.icirr.org.