Undocumented workers fall through the cracks

The US Department of Labor reported 3.23 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, up from 282,000 during the previous week. In Massachusetts, about 148,000 filed an initial claim for unemployment insurance in that same period.

But in the rush for help, one group — undocumented workers — is largely left out. Hidden in plain sight as dishwashers, sous chefs, construction workers, and custodians, they are being laid off in droves as sit-down restaurants shutter, development projects halt, and businesses and universities close.

The Bay State is home to at least 250,000 undocumented immigrants, according to 2017 Pew Research data. Advocacy groups in the state estimate that number is currently closer to 400,000.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced last week that the state would expedite state unemployment insurance claims for workers losing their jobs in the aftermath of the pandemic hitting the state. But undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for unemployment insurance despite often paying taxes.

On a federal level, the Senate proposal being considered by the House today would dole out a one-time payment of $1,200 to individuals, but only to people who file their taxes using a Social Security number, not the individual taxpayer identification number many undocumented immigrants use to file their taxes.

The Internal Revenue Service has been asking unauthorized immigrants for tax money long before coronavirus, and in 2017, that equaled about $184.5 million in state and local taxes. Despite those payments, they can’t be included in the federal bailout.

Safety net programs that many unemployed people turn to, like food stamps and subsidized housing, are also off the table. Undocumented workers also do not qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

“Undocumented workers are going to be the ones left out of any sort of social safety net we have set up,” said Lily Huang, co-director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, to Eater Magazine.

A patchwork group of efforts are coming together, from labor, legal, and community groups, to provide help.

In Boston, a COVID-19 resource guide for immigrants, “regardless of immigration status,” has been compiled. The city is directing people to the nonprofit Project Bread, which is offering a multilingual hotline to help families. There’s also information on where children can get food while schools are closed. More info on food pantries and senior dining sites is also included.

The Mass UndocuFund, backed by Jobs with Justice, MataHari Women’s Worker Centers, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, and One Fair Wage, is trying to raise at least $1 million for undocumented families. The effort launched March 23, and has $22,000 in its coffers so far, or enough to provide help to 70 recently unemployed workers and families. Funds are meant to help with expenses, including rent, groceries, medicine, transportation, and even funerals.

In Northampton, a similar effort started Thursday through Pioneer Valley Workers Center, with the goal of reaching $50,000.

For others, small amounts of relief have been even more hyperlocal. In Revere, an undocumented woman who lost two jobs in one day, one at a local baker and the other as a washroom attendant, has been getting her food from a local church. “I don’t know how I will pay the rent, pay for food,” she told WGBH.



The Senate strips Republican Sen. Dean Tran of his leadership post and kicks him out of his State House office as punishment for using taxpayer-funded employees on his political campaign. (CommonWealth)

A frustrated Gov. Charlie Baker almost says Goddamned during his live State House briefing. Also in virus notes: medical students to the rescue, unemployment claims soar, the COVID-19 numbers for Thursday, Senate passes nursing bill, and stimulus could net Mass. $2.6 billion. (CommonWealth)

Baker seeks a federal major disaster declaration for Massachusetts. (Gloucester Daily Times)

The online filing of unemployment claims on the state website is not going well, and it’s delaying receipt of payments for some. (Boston Globe)

Homeless shelters struggling to cope with COVID-19 are seeking help from the state. (Eagle-Tribune)


Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz tests positive for COVID-19. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Eight Boston police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus, a figure that doubled over the last day. (Boston Herald) In Taunton, the figure is two police officers and one firefighter. (Taunton Gazette) Provincetown, which has seven confirmed COVID-19 cases, is walking back its shelter-in-place order. (Cape Cod Times)

Boston’s construction ban is exposing a rift between Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker, who has supported continued work on projects elsewhere in the state. (Boston Herald)

Recently laid off Brockton employees complain about password reset issues on the state unemployment website. (The Enterprise)


The New York Times has a gripping five-minute video spotlighting a Queens hospital and doctor there who provides wrenching testimony to how dire things are in the US epicenter of the pandemic.

The White House abruptly scrapped what was to be announced this past Wednesday — that General Motors and Ventec Life Systems would be churning out as many as 80,000 ventilators. (New York Times)

Despite President Trump regularly citing the cruise industry as a particularly hard hit sector in need of help, most cruise companies will not be eligible for the $500 billion aid fund moving through Congress because they are based outside the US to avoid taxes and regulations. (Washington Post)

Trump brought up Tom Brady in what the Herald’s Joe Battenfeld called a “rambling press conference,” but the former Pats QB was actually invoked earlier in the day by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a way not flattering to the president.

US Rep. Seth Moulton withdraws his support for a resolution condemning China for its handling of COVID-19. (The Salem News)

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issues an order overriding many of the COVID-19 shutdowns and social distancing measures in place in local communities. (Mississippi Free Press)


The US now has the most COVID-19 infections of any country in the world. (AP)

COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate by age, yet it’s unclear how worried people younger than 60 should be about falling seriously ill. (CommonWealth)

A retired Springfield principal is stranded on a cruise ship as passengers fall ill. (MassLive)


The economy has entered a deep recession that has echoes of the Great Depression, reports the Washington Post.

Four percent of the Massachusetts workforce filed for unemployment last week, as the economy comes to a “full stop.” (MassLive) Extrapolating from poll data, MassINC research director Ben Forman estimates 589,000 state residents lost their jobs and Massachusetts households lost $673 million in wages last week. (CommonWealth)

Local supermarkets say some of their workers have contracted COVID-19. (WBUR)

A Beverly company that manufactures religious garments is the latest to switch to making masks. (The Salem News)

Real estate brokers are figuring out how to buy and sell houses with limited personal interaction. (Gloucester Daily Times)


State education officials offer guidance to local school districts on how to provide home-bound students with “meaningful and productive” learning for about three hours a day over the next five weeks. (CommonWealth)

Framingham State University is reimbursing students for about $3.9 million in dorm and parking fees. (MetroWest Daily News)


From the COVID-19 frontlines, MGH Dr. Jarone Lee prepares for the surge. (CommonWealth)

UMass Memorial Hospital is using UV rays to decontaminate masks. (Telegram & Gazette) Meanwhile, Berkshire Medical Center sets up a COVID-19 hotline and staffs it with nurses. (Berkshire Eagle)


Massachusetts cultural organizations struggle in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic (WBUR)

The New Bedford Whaling Museum and Southcoast Health are providing something special for residents in trying times. (Standard-Times)


WBUR wraps up its series on county sheriffs and the jails they operate.

The state Supreme Judicial Court has reinstated four child rape indictments against former Milton Academy teacher Reynold Buono. (Patriot Ledger)

After months of delayed response to requests, which violated the city’s public records laws, the Boston Police Department has finally released some  data on 2018 pedestrian stops. (Bay State Banner)


The coronavirus is killing local news, write Steve Waldman and Charles Sennott, and government and philanthropy need to step in as part of the answer. (The Atlantic)

The Canadian government is planning a $30 million ad buy to help the nation’s struggling newspapers. (National Observer)

The Warwick Beacon of Rhode Island is now publishing once a week rather than twice and it also laid off eight employees, including its publisher. (Providence Journal)