by Jason Hopkins
California’s multi-million dollar aid program for illegal aliens has been bogged down by technical issues, with many applicants inundating phone lines every day to no avail, according to NPR.
The implementation of California’s Disaster Relief Fund, a $125 million initiative backed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom that provides one-time cash payments to undocumented immigrants, remains rocky as there are simply too many callers for workers to handle. Reports of jammed phone lines and unanswered calls have plagued the program’s rollout.
“I dial and dial and dial and I get a busy signal,” a Salvadoran migrant identified as “Jaime” told NPR about the situation. Like the thousands of other applicants, Jaime is living in the U.S. illegally and does not qualify for other coronavirus pandemic federal assistance programs, NPR reported.
“I feel like the opportunity goes away every day, the funds are running lower every day, and no one picks up my call,” he said.
One problem facing the Disaster Relief Fund, backed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, is that there is not enough aid for the number of illegal aliens living in California.
The program — a joint public-private partnership that takes $75 million from state taxpayers and another $50 million from philanthropic organizations — is distributing $500 to individuals and as much as $1,000 per household. Currently, there is funding for 250,000 eligible applicants.
With an estimated 2 million illegal aliens working in California, this potentially leaves around 1.75 million illegal aliens without any aid, NPR reported. The funds are being doled out on a first-come first-serve basis — triggering the enormous rush of calls from people hoping to receive funding before it runs out.
The problems began in the first minutes of the program’s launch May 18. An estimated 630,000 calls were made to the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, one of 12 nonprofit organizations tapped by California to vet applicants, within the first 90 minutes.
Many callers reported that they could not get through just minutes after phone lines officially opened up to the public. By 10 a.m. Pacific Time, one hour after the phones opened, many of the lines crashed.
Because of their undocumented status, illegal aliens in the U.S. do not qualify for federal coronavirus aid, such as the CARES Act passed by Congress. While some major U.S. cities have implemented their own relief programs for the undocumented, Gavin’s relief fund for California’s illegal alien population is being described as a first of its kind.
Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, sued Newsom over the program before it began. Judicial Watch argued that federal immigration law generally prohibits illegal aliens from being eligible for state or local public benefits without explicit authority from a state legislature — something Newsom did not obtain, according to Judicial Watch.
The lawsuit has been dismissed by the state Supreme Court.
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Jason Hopkins is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.