Several elected officials from Raleigh and Durham have pledged to share their federal stimulus checks with immigrants who are cut off from COVID-19 aid.
The pledges to donate money are part of a #ShareYourCheck challenge started by the Latinx grassroots empowerment organization, Siembra NC, to encourage people to contribute part or all of their COVID-19 stimulus checks to its new COVID-19 Immigrant Solidarity Fund.
The federal government is sending a one-time stimulus check to some Americans as part of a $2 trillion COVID-19 response bill known as the CARES Act. Individuals who earn less than $75,000 per year will receive a $1,200 check by the end of 2019, with an additional $500 for each qualifying dependent child under 17. Married couples under the threshold will receive $2,400.
At least 157 North Carolinians have already pledged to share their checks with the fund. The elected officials who have taken the pledge include Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, along with Durham City Council members Mark-Anthony Middleton, Charlie Reece, Jillian Johnson and Javiera Caballero, Durham County Commission Chair Wendy Jacobs and Durham County Commissioner Heidi Carter, as well as Raleigh City Council members Saige Martin and Nicole Stewart.
“Moments like this define who will rise and who is left behind,” Martin stated in a Monday news release. “As Federal programs struggle to reach those that qualify, it’s clear to me that we must give back to those who are the backbone of this country, yet, too often do not qualify for aid. I call on my fellow residents with any capacity to join me in donating their stimulus check or any amount to the Siembra Solidarity Fund. Let’s ensure we all rise together.”
The New American Economy research group estimates there are over 317,100 undocumented immigrants living in North Carolina who paid more than $639 million in federal, state and local taxes in 2018. Yet, even U.S. citizens married to undocumented immigrants who file jointly with their spouses are ineligible for stimulus checks.
As part of its COVID relief effort, Siembra NC is standing up for families in Stewart Detention Center in Georgia — the closest Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility — and they converted their 24-hour detention hotline to a COVID relief referral service. The group is also providing Spanish-language information to workers, business owners and others on how to stay safe, access testing and aid and defend their rights as rent comes due and managers force them to work without proper safety measures.
The organization kicked off its fundraiser Saturday with a “Sábado Gigante” Facebook Live telethon hosted by younger immigrant members of Siembra NC who also pledged their stimulus checks. Over the course of 12 hours, 219 donors gave more than $13,000, surpassing the initial $5,000 goal.
Still, the group is encouraging more donations for those residents who are able to contribute.
“These funds are a critical lifeline for North Carolina taxpayers who work in restaurants, hotels or as domestic workers and have lost most or all of their income, and have been blocked from receiving state or federal aid,” said Siembra spokesperson Andrew Willis Garcés. “Beating this pandemic requires all of us to work together to fill gaps in our social safety net, and this effort to create a ‘people’s stimulus’ is one way to step in where government programs are falling short.”
The live broadcast from Saturday’s fundraiser can still be viewed in four parts, and included a cooking demonstration from James Beard-nominated Raleigh chef Oscar Diaz, and performances by Durham rocker Cristy Road Carrera, Raleigh drag queen “Tesoro” and 18 others. It’s already had more than 21,000 views.
The telethon funds already benefited seven Raleigh immigrant women whose husbands were detained by ICE since January. The funds also contributed to the broader solidarity fund, which will provide relief for those undocumented families who are shut out of federal stimulus checks.
“We’re encouraging everyone who can to donate,” said Durham’s Caballero. “There are many ways to help those who are struggling, and this fund is one of them.”