MICOP’s Storm Impact Assistance Program distributes more than $20 million to the community.
By: Miguel Hernandez
(Listen to our audio in Spanish and Mixteco, Guadalupe Nundaca variant, 8 min)
Since the Storm Impact Assistance (SAI) program launched on June 8, 2023, the Ventura County, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo teams have distributed more than $20 million to the community. The Storm Impact Assistance for Immigrants program is part of a $95 million effort by Governor Gavin Newsom to assist undocumented communities that were affected by the storms that impacted California from December 2022 to April 2023. Sadly, the funds for this valuable aid have already been exhausted, and there is no current notice if a second aid fund will be created to continue this program. The SAI program of the Mixteco Indigenous Project has helped more than 8 thousand undocumented families in the counties of Ventura, Santa Bárbara, and San Luis Obispo.
With only ten members, SAI was able to be a line of hope for undocumented communities in three different counties. The Storm Impact Assistance program for immigrants was a revolutionary program, as these communities are often excluded from any federal monetary assistance due to their legal status. SAI had a great linguistic reach, as its team was able to help people in English, Spanish, and Mixteco. The ability to assist the community in three different languages made SAI a unique and different program compared to other organizations that also distributed financial funds.
Although storm impact assistance was designed with the purpose of assisting undocumented communities, several members of the SAI team reported that it was a significant challenge for applicants to obtain the proper documents to apply since not everyone has proof of address or viable identification. A dedicated SAI member, Gustavo Amado, commented;
“One of the challenges was when the community could not obtain their necessary documents for the application and had to find some way to help them obtain those documents.”
Now that the program is coming to an end, SAI members reflect on their experience working with the migrant indigenous community, like José Mendoza, who comments.
“My favorite part of working with the community is that there are clients who do need the support and thank us very much for the help. We are also here to support them in a language that they feel comfortable with. Supporting the community in their native language is my favorite part because the community doesn’t have to struggle to speak Spanish or another language they don’t know, like English.
SAI Program Coordinator Stephanie Palma also commented: “My favorite part of working with the community is seeing the smile on their faces after telling them they qualified for help. It also makes me very proud to know that we are helping my community.” The high demand for the services provided by SAI is an example of the incredible lack of social service assistance for undocumented communities since they do not qualify for other essential support services, such as unemployment.
Maribel Rodríguez, originally from San Martín Peras and also a member of the SAI program, comments: “Storm assistance has helped the community a lot because it is the only social service that truly helps the undocumented, since the others, such as unemployment or “Retirements do not help the undocumented.”