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Assembly Member Santiago Joins Fight to Expand Unemployment Benefits to Excluded Immigrant Workers

For immediate release:

(Los Angeles, CA) – As storms continue to batter California creating precarious employment for California workers, dozens of immigrant and worker rights advocates and state legislators joined together to launch the 2023 Safety Net for All campaign to secure unemployment benefits for excluded immigrant workers in California. State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Assembly Member Miguel Santiago, immigrant rights leaders and community members gathered in Downtown Los Angeles Friday to call for the passage of SB 227, the Safety Net for All Workers Act, introduced Jan. 19 by Sen. Durazo.

Assembly Member Santiago speaking

The Coalition also called on state officials to include funding for the program in the state budget. SB 227 would create the first-ever Excluded Worker Program in California. As punishing storms wreak havoc across the state, workers – especially those who will rebuild homes, cities and critical infrastructure and those in precarious employment positions – are unable to work or earn a consistent living. Yet, many California workers do not have access to unemployment benefits solely due to their immigration status.

The new legislation will provide temporary wage replacement for undocumented workers who have lost their jobs. Senator Durazo introduced SB 227 along with two co-authors, Assembly members Miguel Santiago and Wendy Carrillo. The program would provide unemployed workers who are ineligible for regular unemployment insurance due to their immigration status with $300 per week for up to 20 weeks.

Last year, the Legislature passed AB 2847, a similar piece of legislation that also would have created an excluded worker program, but it was vetoed by Governor Newsom. Undocumented immigrants contribute $3.7 billion annually in state and local taxes. Taxes on wages of undocumented workers contribute an estimated $485 million to the UI system in California each year. A companion budget proposal to SB 227 is also being championed by the Coalition to fund the program. The $356 million investment would provide excluded immigrant workers the economic security similar to other workers in California.

“Ensuring all working Californians have access to unemployment insurance is key to keeping families out of poverty and providing a safety net to our most vulnerable populations” said Assembly Member Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles). “It is vital to provide financial support to all workers whose jobs were affected by the pandemic and the recent storms that caused widespread destruction throughout California. I am proud to be a principal co-author on SB 227 which will provide financial support to all workers of California regardless of their immigration status.”

“Every day, undocumented immigrants contribute to California’s economic prosperity in agriculture, construction, clothing and other industries” said Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles). “California is set to be the world’s fourth-largest economy in large part thanks to immigrant labor, yet immigrants continue to be shut out from California’s economic success due to unjust exclusions from the safety net. That is why I am authoring SB 227, the Safety Net for All Workers Act. California must include a life-saving unemployment benefits program for these workers.”

“Immigrant workers are critical to rebuilding California after the storms of this winter and immigrant workers are vital to securing and strengthening our infrastructure as the climate continues to warm and change,” said Veronica Alvarado, deputy director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center.

“Right now due to the rains, I am not able to go to work and I wonder where will I be getting the money to buy food and to pay rent? As farmworkers, our job is to feed the whole state. It is time that receive real support from politicians, with actions not just words” said Emilia Guzman, a farmworker and member of Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indigena Oxaqueño.

Assembly Member Miguel Santiago is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization. He represents the 54th District composed of the cities of Los Angeles, Commerce, Montebello, and Vernon.

The Safety Net for All Coalition is comprised of over 100 organizations throughout California united by the fight for an inclusive safety net for all workers.