Become an equity advocate during COVID-19

Black Lives Matter activist speaks to a crowd
Mercy Corps Northwest is supporting the most vulnerable in our community by offering new pathways to capital for immigrants and ITIN holders.

For many of us, the global pandemic of COVID‑19 is an unprecedented hardship. But for immigrants with limited federal work authorization, the challenges they already faced in their daily lives are even more greatly exacerbated.

Immigrants with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) contribute billions of dollars in taxes to the U.S. economy each year. ITIN-holding business owners file their taxes, possess a government-issued ID, have a registered business, and employ others. Despite this, they do not receive tax refunds, remain ineligible for federal relief programs such as the PPP or EIDL programs, and are hit the hardest from the aftershocks of a disaster.  

Mercy Corps Northwest is working hard to offset these realities for the most vulnerable in our community by offering new pathways to capital for immigrants and ITIN holders. In partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we’ve provided 24 emergency business grants up to $10,000 to business owners in Washington state. These funds allow business owners a fighting chance at surviving the devastating financial impacts of emergencies like COVID-19.

Jewelry display

Meet ITIN business owners María and Daniel


María and her husband Daniel own a gyro and jewelry company based in Seattle, Washington. They sell food and jewelry at different farmers markets in the Seattle metro area, but lost their entire income when markets closed in response to COVID‑19. 

Both María and Daniel are immigrants and work with an ITIN in the U.S. which allows them to pay taxes but does not make them eligible for tax returns or federal relief. With no income for three months, and boxed out of relief packages, they didn’t know what to do.  

On May 8, in partnership with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we awarded them a grant for $7,500 so they could pay bills, remain afloat. Today, María is also working with a business coach to build a website so they can start a path toward continuing their business operations, their lifeline, online.

“My company is my life’s dream and hope for my future. When we opened our company, I invested all of our savings and got a loan from the bank," said María. "When the pandemic arrived I thought that we would be ruined entirely. Without Mercy Corps’ help, my business would be closed.” 

How to support ITIN business owners

Families like Maria and Daniel need your support. Here are a few ways you can support people with an ITIN in Washington and across the country:

  • Donate – Mercy Corps is a leading financier of ITIN microenterprises in the state of Washington. Donate here to help us keep supporting these entrepreneurs. Make your voice heard by supporting organizations that support ITIN families year-round, including El Centro de la Raza.
  • Advocate – Tell your governor to take action by signing our petition. Take the impact a step further and ask your network to do the same.
  • Share – Mercy Corps Northwest is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @MercyCorpsNW. Share this story with your social networks to raise awareness and take a stance.

To learn more about our work, and how you can give back, reach out to Edwin Rios, Washington State Program Manager, at Mercy Corps Northwest. 

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