Dallas Receives $500K for Fund Helping Immigrant Communities Impacted by COVID-19

The application process is open to nonprofits only, which will then distribute the money to families in communities they work with

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Dallas is launching an effort to directly help some of the most vulnerable communities hit hard by the pandemic.

The "Emma Lazarus Resilience Fund" aims to cover gaps in coverage for immigrant and refugee families, who are otherwise ineligible for federal COVID-19 relief.

New York-based Open Society Foundations, or OSF, is setting up special funds across the country for these vulnerable communities who don't qualify for federal relief but have been severely impacted by the pandemic. The group has identified Dallas as its latest focus.

“We know that there’s a great need from our community who are dealing with COVID-19, often serving on the front lines and yet unable to access those federal stimulus funds," said Liz Cedillo-Pereira, chief of Equity & Inclusion for the city of Dallas. “This is just our small way of saying we see you, we hear you and we thank you for what you have done to help Dallas be a strong economy, a diverse community.”

OSF is partnering with the city’s Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs (WCIA) to establish the fund, which will be administered by the Communities Foundation of Texas. The initial distribution will be $500,000, with the intention of attracting additional funding sources from private donors and foundations in Dallas.

"Immigrants, including and perhaps especially undocumented workers, are essential to our ability to respond to the pandemic,” said Gregory Maniatis, the international migration initiative director for Open Society Foundations.  “They are the essential workers whom we rely on for our food, meat production, agriculture. In nursing homes and hospitals, they are the ones cleaning the wards, the ones cleaning the ICUs. They are the janitors in the buildings, those who have to go to work as subway operators or bus drivers.”

Data shows why that matters in Dallas.

According to the OSF, Dallas has the third-highest number of DACA recipients and the fourth-highest number of undocumented immigrants in the country.

Dallas city leaders say 40 percent of the city's growth in the last census, is attributed to the immigrant community. One out of four residents was born in another country.

“About 25% of Dallas’ residents are immigrants and refugees, and WCIA was established to ensure our city responds to their needs,” Dallas city manager T.C. Broadnax said in a statement. “This type of public-private partnership with OSF and CFT is critical to support our residents during this critical time of COVID-19. We thank the Open Society Foundations for identifying Dallas as a partner in making financial assistance available to Dallas’ immigrant communities.”

The application process is open to nonprofits only, which can apply at www.cftexas.org/lazarus.

From there, the money will be funneled down to the communities those non-profits work with.

The deadline is Friday, August 21. Funds will be made available in September and families can be eligible for a one-time relief payment of $500 to $1,000 per family.

“I know that people are often hit hard and often don’t necessarily have the confidence to reach out to see a government entity like the city to request help,” said Cedillo-Pereira. “So that’s why it’s so important that we develop partnerships with community-based organizations, with people who have trusted voices in our community.”

The Emma Lazarus Resilience Fund is named after the American poet, whose words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” appear inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

“It speaks really to the spirit of his country,” said Maniatis. “We rely on immigrants for our food and for the innovation that has driven the American economy. And that is symbolized for many of us by the Statue of Liberty.”

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