Study: Leaving Undocumented Utahns Out of Coronavirus Aid Has a Ripple Effect

Jul 29, 2020


Credit Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS


It’s estimated that 70,000 to 110,000 undocumented immigrants live in Utah, and that 55,000 people who contribute to Utah’s economy are ineligible to have received the CARES Act’s $1,200 economic impact payment because of their immigration status. On Tuesday, Voices for Utah Children released a report calculating the cost of leaving undocumented workers out of the first wave of the federal and state COVID-19 stimuli.


University of Utah student Mario Ramirez Arrazola compiled the data. He shows undocumented Utah workers pay 15.3% in federal taxes and 8% in income, property and sales tax. They also pay unemployment insurance adding up to nearly $11 million to the federal fund. In addition, another $60 million was paid to the state fund over the past 10 years. 


“Undocumented Utahns have contributed more than $71 million for the last decade for a benefit that they themselves will not receive even when unemployment rates have reached levels not seen since the 1930s,” Ramirez Arrazola said. 


Ramirez Arrazola concluded that undocumented workers statewide are excluded from a sum of $154.8 million. The CARES Act payment of $1,200 would equal $84 million paid out to the thousands of undocumented adults in Utah.


“$44.9 million in the CARES Act enhanced unemployment compensation,” he said. “That’s 55,000 undocumented workers at an average unemployment rate of 8% for 17 weeks from March 29 to July 25 at $600 weekly.” 


Ramirez Arrazola says undocumented workers pay into unemployment insurance but under Utah’s law, they’re not eligible for any benefits.


“This is not only unfair to the undocumented community here in Utah but it’s also very detrimental to Utah’s economy as a whole, seeing as how this $150.4 million could have ended up being spent back in Utah’s consumer economy creating those ripple effects in the economy, helping reduce unemployment and helping speed up recovery from this pandemic.”


Ramirez Arrazola says leaving out these families has had negative impacts on Utah’s economy and, of course, the people themselves.


Alexandria Taylor, a Utahn whose husband is undocumented, says her entire family became infected with COVID-19. She was very ill with symptoms. Her husband and one daughter suffered as well. She saidit was terrifying to be so sick and isolated, but physical illness wasn’t the only problem. 


COVID-19 slow-downs have impacted the tile and countertop work her husband does and they’re worried about paying their bills. She wants state legislators to allocate stimulus payments to undocumented workers during the special session scheduled for August. 


“How many other families like mine are in this same situation, who should be entitled to receive a stimulus check,” she said. “Myself and my daughters were born in the U.S. but my husband wasn't, and because of his immigration status, we weren't able to qualify. Just imagine the families who don't have the same privileges as I do, and have children, and the head of household is not able to work because of their jobs being closed down because of COVID, even worse imagine them not being able to work because they’re home sick and the stress of not being able to provide for their families.”