PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s been difficult for a few years in Oregon due to the pandemic, wildfires, heat events and other disasters. While state and federal aid has helped many cushion those blows, some of the most vulnerable community members have been historically excluded from relief because of their immigration status.

But Oregon Worker Relief is a unique program working to bridge that gap to help migrant Oregonians.

“When the pandemic started, and as it continued, there were a lot of folks that were able to receive stimulus payments as well as financial support,” said Oregon Worker Relief Board President Martha Sonato. “But our undocumented community was not able to receive any of that really important support even though they are important in our communities and in our economy.”

More than 42,000 immigrant Oregonians have received assistance from the relief fund. So far, the network of community-based organizations has distributed more than $134 million in aid.

Program Manager Andrea González told KOIN 6 News the funds have been a lifeline for the state’s most vulnerable, allowing families to stay in their homes, rebuild after the wildfires and simply put food on the table.

“I believe that this kind of fund and support makes Oregon great. Right now, we have distributed more than $134 million through those communities. No one has ever done anything like that. No one else in the US,” she said. “Oregon is the first state to create something like this.”

Now González and the others with the Oregon Worker Relief coalition are advocating for the program to continue as the legislature has another opportunity to keep funding it during the upcoming sessions next year.