California bill would give $6,000 in unemployment benefits to undocumented migrants

Beth Torres

New law would provide migrants with $300 a week for up to 20 weeks

California lawmakers are considering enacting a bill that would give unemployment benefits to undocumented migrants.

Introduced by Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Senate Bill 227 proposes to change the current California law that prohibits the state from paying unemployment benefits to individuals who are not citizens or nationals of the United States.

Under the new law, which is known as “The Safety Net for All Workers Act,” undocumented migrant workers could apply for and receive $300 per week for each week they are unemployed. The maximum time they could receive unemployment benefits would be 20 weeks.

California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) would oversee the program, which would cover workers who are normally excluded from unemployment benefits because of their immigration status.

Should the bill pass, undocumented workers could receive benefits for each week they are unemployed between January 1, 2025 and December 21, 2025.

This video from KPIX CBS News Bay Area reports on the proposed bill to give jobless benefits to undocumented workers.

What advocates and critics say about SB 227

Advocates of this bill point out that undocumented workers pay into the state’s unemployment insurance system but receive no benefits from it under the current law. Through taxes taken from their wages, undocumented workers pay an estimated $485 million each year into the unemployment benefits system.

Advocates claim the implementation of this bill will bring fairness into a system that is currently unfair. They say that the state should support migrant labor as it is a critical component of California’s economy.

Critics of SB 227 say that the bill runs counter to current immigration policy. By giving undocumented workers unemployment benefits, they say the bill will incentivize more illegal immigration and will encourage undocumented workers to stay in the country.

Critics also point out that California has a ballooning budget deficit of $31.5 billion. State legislators should be looking for ways to cut spending not increase it, especially with the prospect of a looming recession.

How much will California Senate Bill 227 cost taxpayers?

The Senate Committee on Appropriations released a report on April 20, 2023 outlining the estimated costs should SB 227 become law. As revealed in the report, there are several expenditures needed just to get the new benefits program up and running.

The Employment Development Department (EDD) says it will need an estimated one-time amount of $271 million, the majority of which will go toward creating a new information technology system to help run the new benefits program.

Once the program begins, the EDD assumes there could be 1.1 million potential claimants for benefits. Based on this assumption, the EDD estimates that there could be an ongoing administrative cost between $39 million to $54 million.

The next cost to consider is the actual cost of unemployment benefits to undocumented workers. The Appropriations Analysis estimates the annual cost could be $330 million. Here’s how they arrive at this amount:

“The cost of benefits paid to claimants would be driven by (1) the number of applicants, (2) the number of weeks, and (3) the benefit amount of $300 per week. Thus, if 55,000 claimants received an average 20 weeks of benefits at $300 a week, the EDD estimates that it could issue $330 million in benefits annually.”

There are additional costs that have yet to be determined and the program will result in revenue losses for the state:

“The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) estimates that the bill would result in General Fund revenue losses of $4.3 million in 2025-26. FTB’s costs to implement the bill have yet to be determined.”

What are your thoughts on this proposed legislation?

Should California enact a law requiring payment of unemployment benefits to undocumented migrants? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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