NY approves $2.1 B in funding for undocumented immigrants


Samson Li | The Ticker

Shania DeGroot

New York State’s undocumented workers are now eligible for pandemic relief, with $2.1 billion set aside in the state budget, which provides employees with up to $3,300 per month.

Since the coronavirus pandemic started, undocumented employees have been under a lot of stress. Their lack of legal documentation means they have been unable to collect unemployment benefits, access stimulus checks or apply for small business loans since the start of the pandemic.

As a result, a group of migrant workers and supporters staged a hunger strike in New York City, ending two days before the state budget was finalized.

The goal of the hunger strike was to draw attention to undocumented workers who have not yet to obtained any government help released during the pandemic. Many of these immigrants have worked in a variety of essential jobs, such as food distribution and street vending, or lost their jobs altogether and had to adapt.

For instance, with the assistance of the Workers Justice Project, Annalilia Leon learned how to make face masks when she lost her housekeeping clients during the pandemic. Since Leon is undocumented, she was not eligible for unemployment benefits, stimulus funds or other pandemic help.

These protesters wanted the state government to create a $3.5 billion fund to provide retroactive direct cash assistance to employees who have been denied any kind of pandemic financial help.

Many organizations have lobbied for the contentious money, including the New York Immigration Coalition.

“Without immigrant New Yorkers, there isn’t very much of a local economy, so this is going to really reinvigorate local economies,” Murad Awawdeh, co-executive director of the Immigration Coalition, said.

In order to receive the funding from the Excluded Workers Fund, one must be a current resident of New York and have lived there before March 27, 2020. The recipient must have also been financially negatively impacted by COVID-19 after February 2020.

“You’re also eligible if the person who was the breadwinner for your family died or became disabled due to COVID. You must not have been eligible for other unemployment benefits or any federal COVID-related income relief. You must have personally earned less than $26,208 total in the past year,” The City reported.

If a person is eligible, they can receive up to $15,600, The City reported. It is also important to note that this funding and information provided to obtain it cannot be used against the applicant, meaning that they cannot be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection.

Undocumented workers in New York are now celebrating their win with the new budget that includes them, after banding together with community support to advocate for more aid during difficult times.