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MPLS announces new funding to help renters, workers, small businesses, regardless of immigration status

Non-profits were crowdfunding to help undocumented families before; now they say they will pivot to help folks outside of city limits.

MINNEAPOLIS — While we are all navigating to figure out what comes next for us, whether that may be unemployment benefits or figuring out when the stimulus check is going to arrive, there's a population that was unaccounted for, at least up until recently in Minneapolis.

According to Navigate MN, a nonprofit that was founded in 2007 help undocumented families, there are more than 190,000 mixed-status families in Minnesota. Because many of those folks do not qualify for federal or state benefits, Emilia Gonzalez Avalos had set up a Gofundme in the hopes of relying on private dollars to help undocumented families affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gonzalez Avalos, the executive director Navigate MN, says up until recently, she too was undocumented.

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"I recently because a legal permanent resident after waiting 20 something years to become one," she said. 

So she says she knows what it feels like to slip deeper into the shadows, especially during a time when people need help the most.

"People with an ITIN number who have been working undocumented in the country for many years have been able to put in their dollars and contribute to the tax amount," Gonzalez Avalos explained. "But they are not eligible for any of that support system in return especially now in times of a global pandemic."

An ITIN, or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is issued by the IRS to ensure everyone, even undocumented immigrants pay taxes. However, that doesn't mean that people with ITINs qualify to receive stimulus checks. Without a social security number, Gonzalez Avalos says many undocumented immigrants have never qualified for any other state benefits either.

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"I'm talking about unemployment insurance, undocumented people don't qualify for that," Gonzalez Avalos said. "Section 8 housing help, or any kind of cash support, undocumented people do not qualify for that."

That was up until last Friday. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey introduced the city's Gap Funding Plan, which in part helps with housing. The more than $5 million fund promises to help small businesses and workers as well. 

Families living in Minneapolis, making 30 percent or less than the area median income and have experienced a significant loss of income due to COVID-19 qualify. All this, regardless of the individual's immigration or documentation status. 

The money, according to the program will go directly to landlords or utility companies. 

Gonzalez Avalos, says with the city's pledge, she has now pivoted her Gofundme to help undocumented families outside of Minneapolis. She said she has never doubted Minnesotan kindness.

"We believe that Minnesotans are kind, are generous, are humane and care about one another," Gonzalez Avalos said. "In only ways Minnesotans do."

Gonzalez Avalos said so far she and the others are waiting to hear how the city will roll out the application process for its Gap Funding Plan. 

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