Immigrants living in Washington state who lost their job or experienced other hardships during the COVID‑19 pandemic may be eligible to receive at least $1,000 in state relief.
The funding is provided by the Washington COVID‑19 Immigrant Relief Fund managed by the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS), which partnered with a WSU student on the Pullman campus to spread the word about the funds and encourage students, faculty, and staff to apply.
Fiona Okech, a junior chemical engineering student at WSU Pullman and youth executive director of the nonprofit organization African Young Dreamers Empowerment Program International (AYDEPI), has teamed up with DSHS and the WSU Undocumented Student Center to help inform immigrant communities at WSU about the opportunity.
“There are a lot of resources like the Immigration Relief Fund available to immigrant communities, but they either don’t know about them, or they don’t feel comfortable seeking them out,” Okech said. “I have been in their shoes, and I know that partnerships like this are key to getting them the resources they desperately need.”
DSHS is accepting applications through Monday, Nov. 14. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, live in Washington, and not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits or federal stimulus funds due to their immigration status.
Spreading the word
On many days, Okech and two other youth leaders can be found getting the word out about the fund by tabling in the CUB, distributing flyers to downtown businesses, and holding office hours in the Undocumented Student Center, which they will continue every Monday from 2–5 p.m. until Nov. 11.
“Many students are too nervous or shy to talk at our table,” she said. “So, they’ll show up to our office hours where they have more privacy to share their stories and ask questions about their eligibility.”
If anyone can ease the concerns of students, it is Okech, an undocumented student who received money from the Immigration Relief Fund during an earlier distribution.
Okech said the funding helped her pay for expenses such as housing, books, fees, and food that aren’t covered by her financial aid. She wants students and all immigrants to know the fund is a legitimate opportunity for those who qualify.
“This fund really helped ease my financial situation and I know it can do the same for other students like me,” Okech said. “The money can be used for anything.”
Okech and her team will even help people complete and submit their application, which only takes about 10 minutes for those who have an email address. She emphasized that the information shared in the application will not be shared with the government, ICE, or law enforcement.
All eligible WSU employees are encouraged to apply, and all employees regardless of immigration status can play an important role in supporting our immigrant communities by letting eligible students, family members, and friends know about the COVID‑19 Immigrant Relief Fund.
“It is important that we all work together to support each other, and faculty and staff can be very helpful in this process,” she said. “Many undocumented students, and immigrants in general, are traumatized by stigmatization and feeling judged in the community. We want them to know there are people who want them succeed.”