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SLO County group provides aid for undocumented immigrants during pandemic

Angel Russell
It is estimated that 9,000 undocumented residents live and work in San Luis Obispo County.

While many are waiting to see when they'll get the new stimulus check, an estimated 9,000 undocumented residents of SLO County may be excluded. That's where SLO County UndocuSupport is helping out.

Among Americans bearing the brunt of the pandemic and its economic fallout are undocumented immigrants. Joel Diringer with SLO County UndocuSupport said these are the individuals who’ve stayed in the workforce as essential workers.

“Whether they are farmworkers, people who work in the restaurant industry, [or] people in childcare," Diringer said. "These are the folks who have been taking care of us for many, many community needs.”

Diringer said 12 local organizations came together to form the SLO County UndocuSupport organization, aimed at providing relief for the immigrant community during the COVID crisis.

“Assisting them with rental and utility payments, transportation, groceries, health needs, and even basic necessities like diapers for children,” Diringer said.

Since the start of the pandemic, the organization has raised $85,000 from local donors, providing support to nearly 2000 residents in 17 SLO County communities.

“We’ve been very successful in meeting some of the needs," Diringer said. "This being said, had the federal government actually provided the stimulus checks to the 9,000 undocumented residents in the county, it would have amounted to about $10 million dollars into the local economy.”

While undocumented immigrants will not be eligible for the new round of stimulus checks, family members of undocumented immigrants are, but they must be citizens or green card holders with a social security number. So many will still be excluded.

Diringer said the organization hopes to establish a sustainable organization to help immigrant families through many crises beyond the current one.

“We see this as the beginning of a long-term process of trying to provide support and advocacy for the immigrant community in SLO County,” Diringer said.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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