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Undocumented workers to receive benefits following state budget approval

Posted at 4:56 PM, Jun 30, 2022

Following the approval of Governor Gavin Newsom's budget, state subsidized health insurance as well as some food assistance benefits will be provided for undocumented workers in Santa Maria.

It is estimated that roughly 700,000 undocumented Californians will become eligible for the state's Medi-Cal expansion.

"Health insurance is actually very important for everybody, but especially for people who are afraid to go to the doctor or apply for benefits because of their immigration status," said Santa Maria resident Diana Raya.

State officials predict the move will cost about $2.6 billion annually. The program would expand Medi-Cal eligibility for low-income undocumented residents ages 26 to 49.

Leaders with the local nonprofit MICOP call the news a victory.

"Many of our indigenous immigrant community have been left out of essential resources, especially in healthcare," said the group's policy director Vanessa Terán. "We are now better able to take care of our community's health and wellbeing."

As for the newly-expanded food benefits from the state, California's Food Assistance Program will now permit undocumented immigrants 55-years-old and older to become eligible for receiving food stamps in the state.

Some locals say the move is a step in the right direction, with room for improvement.

"You can't just give to 55-year-olds that aren't doing anything, and not someone that is younger than them breaking their back and doesn't have anything. I think it should go both ways," said Santa Maria resident David Amavisca.

"You drive through the streets and you see them arching their backs, picking up the fruits. Why not offer them assistance?" added Cassandra Pacheco, who just moved to Santa Maria last month.

MICOP estimates there to be over 160,000 farm workers in California. Group leaders say they are working with other non-profits in the state to expand those food assistance benefits to all undocumented residents, regardless of their age.

Other locals said they didn't want to be interviewed, but felt the state should first work to support California's homeless population and reduce inflation before extending these benefits.

The approved California budget includes $35 million to prepare for the food assistance program, which the state anticipates may grow to $113 million by 2026.

The Medi-Cal expansion program is expected to begin by the start of 2024, while the timeline for increased access to food assistance benefits has still not been finalized.