PROVIDENCE - In an effort to assist the populations most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Gina Raimondo on Friday announced a new fundraising initiative that will directly benefit undocumented immigrants through the health crisis. The "WeR1 Rhode Island Fund" has set a fundraising goal of $3 million that will then provide cash assistance to Rhode Island undocumented immigrants and their families. 

"One of the groups who has been hardest hit is our immigrant population in Rhode Island and particularly the undocumented immigrants in Rhode Island," said Raimondo. "And it isn't right. These are folks who, for all practical purposes, are Rhode Islanders. They live in our communities, they work in our hospitals, nursing homes and grocery stores, they send their kids to Rhode Island schools and they are suffering and frankly not eligible for the federal benefits that other people are eligible for."

"So as I come up here and talk about certain benefits and stimulus funds, the group of undocumented immigrants in Rhode Island haven't been able to receive any of them," Raimondo continued. "But these are the people who, many, have had to work the entire time through this crisis, often working in healthcare on the front lines, often working full-time and not making ends meet and through COVID." 

Central Falls, which has a large Latino population, possesses the state's highest rate of infection per municipality. State officials, including the governor, have since adopted a targeted approach to loosen the virus' hold on communities of color. 

"We decided in Rhode Island, that's not right," said Raimondo of the disparity. "Not in Rhode Island. We are a state of community, caring and where neighbors look out for neighbors, and we're going to do something about it."  

Raimondo launched the initiative Friday with $600,000 already in place toward the fundraising goal of $3 million. Monies raised will directly benefit Rhode Island families in need in the form of $400 debit cards. The state has partnered with Dorcas International and Goodworld, two nonprofit organizations with local programming and services, to facilitate donations. 

The governor stressed that any donation amount would help, but also called on wealthy Rhode Islanders or companies to participate as well. 

"I'm calling on all Rhode Islanders with means," she said. "If you are in a position to help, if you are one of the lucky ones who's gone through COVID with your job intact, I'm asking for your help." 

To donate, simply text "WeR1" to 27126. The Rhode Island Foundation has also setup assistance for larger donations on its website at rifoundation.org

"These people need it, they're going to use it on food to feed their children, on gas to put in their car," Raimondo concluded. "We've seen, in other places like Los Angeles that have done a similar thing, the money goes to the most basic necessities and these are people who are in our community, working and ineligible for any federal aid." 

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