Monday marked the first day that illegal aliens living in California could apply for The Disaster Relief Fund, a $125 million initiative by the state that provides one-time cash payments to those living in the country illegally who would not otherwise qualify for federal assistance.
If call volume is any indication, the program is immensely popular among California’s illegal alien population.
Many individuals reported that they could not get through just minutes after phone lines opened up, according to the New York Times. By 10 a.m. Pacific Time, one hour after the phones officially opened to the public, many of the lines crashed.
“The phone lines were completely saturated,” Adolfo Luna, a Mexican national living illegally in the U.S., said to the New York Times about the calls. Like many other illegal aliens in the state, Luna is hoping to get a slice of the cash being given away by the California government.
However, after spending hours on Monday trying to call, Luna said he realized that scoring the coronavirus aid was akin to “winning the lottery,” according to the New York Times. After so many attempts, Luna eventually approached a nonprofit group, and they allowed him to place his name and number onto a list with the promise that he’d get a call in two days to fill out an application.
“I am hopeful that I will get to sign up,” Luna said.
Roughly 630,000 calls were made to the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, one of 12 nonprofit groups tapped by the state to vet applicants, in the first 90 minutes Monday. The group’s phone lines became jammed, and a recording asked callers to make another attempt at a later time.
Eligible illegal aliens may apply for the aid through June 30, or until funds run out.
The fund — a joint public-private partnership that takes $75 million from state taxpayers and another $50 million from philanthropic organizations — will dole out $500 to individuals and as much as $1,000 per household. The program is intended to provide financial assistance to the undocumented community amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The funds are being distributed on a first-come first-serve basis, prompting a huge rush in calls. State officials say the program will be able to pay cash to 150,000 illegal aliens in total.
“We knew the number of applicants would be high, but we were just overwhelmed,” Angelica Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said of the situation. Applications were being conducted over the phone to circumvent dangerous in-person contacts.
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