Thousands of Monterey and Santa Cruz County families were forced to evacuate Sunday morning after the Pajaro and Soledad rivers flooded this rural agricultural area. The storms arrived at the beginning of the growing season, just as farmworkers were going back to work and farmers had prepped the land to grow the fruits and vegetables we all enjoy.
The storms left families without a home, without work, and with possible contamination to drinking water facilities.
Fields are now full of water, drowning plants, and mud banks. Leaving farmworkers without a job and small farmers on the brink of bankruptcy.
The economic impact is long term. It is a decrease in wages and earnings for the entire year, with possible unemployment of six months. This while the region is still trying to recover from the devastating impact of COVID, wildfires, and recent storms.
And if you are undocumented, you have no real recourse.
In 2020, we launched UndocuFund Monterey Bay and came together to provide $5 million in relief funds to families, many with young children. In doing so, we proved that cash works.
UndocuFund Monterey Bay provided unrestricted cash, minimized barriers, limited paperwork, and trusted families to take care of their needs. And it worked!
And while we are ready to step in again and be a trusted partner in philanthropic distributions, we also believe that it is time for the State and our local government to learn from our models and implement what we learned.
We cannot have a meaningful regional recovery and resilience if we leave our undocumented families out - families that feed us and have lived in the region on average of 10 years.
Including undocumented families in federally and state funded safety net programs is the only way forward. For example, California can ensure that all workers receive unemployment benefits through the Safety Net for All Workers Act (SB 277). These changes would provide support and recognize undocumented immigrants’ contribution of over $3 billion in taxes and an estimated $485 million to the Unemployment Insurance system (Public Policy in California).
I invite you to reach out to your representatives and ask for inclusive recovery funds.
Maria Cadenas, MBA
Executive Director, Ventures