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Vermont COVID-19 Equity Fund

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When the first federal COVID stimulus payments came out, the estimated 10.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States were not eligible. Vermont was one of the first states in the nation to extend comparable state fund support to undocumented immigrants. Students and staff of the Vermont Immigrant Assistance (VIA) Project, part of the South Royalton Legal Clinic, have been assisting them with their registrations.

Jill Rudge, Staff Attorney, VIA

Jill Rudge, Staff Attorney, VIA

Jill Rudge, staff attorney for VIA, has worked with a coalition of service providers in Vermont implementing the Vermont COVID-19 Equity Fund. She has provided going general legal information to program administrators on relevant state, immigration and tax law, and participated in drafting the program FAQ to help service providers and individuals alike determine their eligibility and navigate the process. Agencies throughout Vermont have been conducting massive outreach to the estimated 5000 undocumented people living in the state, and will refer those with the most complex eligibility questions to VIA for consultations.

Rudge explained that the people who are eligible for the Equity Fund fall into three general categories: people without a social security number; people with a social security number who lack current, valid work authorization; and people with a work-authorized social security number who haven’t met the ‘substantial presence’ test by spending enough time in the United States.

Student clinicians are working with either Rudge or Clinic Director Erin Jacobsen JD’11 to consult with potential Equity Fund registrants. The sessions are virtual, allowing Rudge and Jacobsen to partner with student clinicians as far away as Texas to meet with clients and answer their legal questions. Service providers that are assisting with this program are helping to make technology and interpretation available to their clients, if need be. Rudge also explained that many clients will be wary of applying for the Equity Fund, and expects that part of the role of everyone involved in implementing the program will be simple reassurance.

Undocumented people have been hit hard by the pandemic and its resulting economic fallout, and Rudge looks forward to offering this assistance.

"This is the first program of its kind in the nation. To have a state-funded, low barrier to access program is incredible. The way that folks are coming together and pooling resources is indicative of the spirit of Vermont," said Rudge.

If you or someone you know might qualify for the Vermont COVID-19 Equity Fund, please visit Vermont Economic Stimulus Fund. Registration closes March 1, 2021.