Denver launches cash program for immigrants left out of past COVID aid

Denver immigrant families that were left out of past pandemic recovery aid programs can apply for new cash assistance through the city beginning Tuesday.

Households that qualify will receive $1,000 to $1,500 under the city’s Basic Cash Assistance for Households Program. The city is using $3 million in one-time federal COVID-19 recovery dollars for the program, which is expected to help 1,800 to 2,200 families, according to Denver’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

Within those families, the money will help support about 4,200 children, including about 1,200 who are under the age of 5, said Atim Otii, the office’s director.

City officials designed the program for families who typically aren’t eligible for public assistance, often due to the parents’ immigration status. Many immigrant families who otherwise would have qualified based on their incomes were left out of earlier pandemic assistance programs. The Denver City Council approved the program earlier this summer.

The city is working with partner Impact Charitable to distribute the cash assistance.

To qualify, applicants must be the heads of their households and not be personally eligible for federally funded benefits. They also must have at least one child under age 18 living in the home. Finally, they must either live in certain areas of Denver, have experienced housing insecurity, or have a child in their home who is eligible for benefits programs such as Head Start, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or free- and reduced-price meals at school.

There is no deadline to apply for the funding, but Otii said the city and its partners expect the money to go quickly.

The new program stems from the state’s Left Behind Workers Fund. That program provided rental assistance at the height of the pandemic to immigrants who, because they lacked documentation, were not eligible to apply for unemployment compensation, direct stimulus dollars or food benefits programs.

Otii said community partners shared more recently that many families were still struggling to make ends meet, so her office pursued additional federal funding to provide basic cash assistance.

Anyone interested in the program can apply only through specific “screener” community organizations and should fill out a contact form at

The city relied on the same process for the Left Behind Workers Fund, which directed money to households that had been significantly affected by the pandemic, Otii said. The city is using the same process because it worked well, she said.

“Our trusted community partners continue to be willing to provide this service because they’re the ones who gave us the feedback that this is a continued need,” Otii said.

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