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A group of more than 140 Bay Area elected leaders and immigration advocates called for state action Monday to include undocumented residents in the state’s social safety net programs during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The coalition, which includes San Jose City Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas, Oakland City Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas and San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen, sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, urging the state to support California’s more than 3 million undocumented residents and immigrants, who are not eligible for federal assistance.

The letter echoes calls from the state Assembly’s Latino Caucus by asking Newsom to establish a disaster relief fund for undocumented residents unable to work due to the pandemic.

Ronen said:

“For immigrant communities in San Francisco, survival in the most expensive city in the country was a challenge and a battle, even before Covid-19 hit our communities.”

Ching Wong/SFBay Children chant during a rally demanding to close border detention centers on Mission Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, September 16, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

She added:

“Now, you can imagine, with people having lost their jobs … making ends meet, having enough food on the table, making rent each month is not possible, it’s not possible in the city.”

The letter also asks Newsom to remove the state’s prohibition on immigrants qualifying for the earned income and young child tax credits, allow immigrants to receive Medi-Cal benefits and establish a permanent income replacement program for residents who don’t qualify for unemployment benefits but are unemployed through no fault of their own.

Newsom has taken measured steps to support the state’s immigrant communities, most notably last week when he announced the establishment of a $125 million fund to offer one-time $500 payments to undocumented residents. Immigration activists have said that the fund is a good first step but will not be enough going forward.

Ching Wong/SFBay Stefania Ortiz, third left, 10, and her classmates chant during a rally demanding to close border detention centers on Mission Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, September 16, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

Arenas said:

“Now is our chance to show the nation that support for our undocumented community is not only possible but will strengthen our entire community of public health, our economic well-being.”

She said:

“Our undocumented community are the extra set of hands for California but they’re also the heart of our state.”

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