New Yorkers protest for Excluded Workers Fund expansion

Meshal Muhammad

Immigrant workers and their allies shut down the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges on March 8 to demand replenishment of the Excluded Workers Fund, which provides aid for undocumented workers who lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The protest started with a march from New York’s City Hall, where they urged New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul and other state lawmakers to deploy $3 billion for the fund and to make government a permanent part of the state budget.

Hochul voiced that the state has $2 billion in funds that have not yet been allocated to any budget components and believes there isn’t a more worthy cause to invest it in than EWF.

It is vital that the funds be allocated to the Excluded Workers Fund before April 1, when the state budget is finalized.

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander walked in support of the excluded workers fund.

“Helping excluded workers get back on their feet now and expanding our social safety net to catch them the next time there’s a crisis will help secure a lasting and inclusive economic recovery for NYC,” Lander said in a statement.

Laborers’ Local 79, a union group for construction workers, also supported additional funding from the state for EWF.

The group expressed that the program’s continuation would help bridge the gap between union and non-union contractors while making it easier for construction workers to organize freely on the job without fear of retaliation.

Last year, after a public hunger strike demanding change, the state allocated $2.3 billion which assisted 128,000 workers who suffered due to unemployment caused by the pandemic.

New York State is currently home to roughly 470,000 undocumented workers, and Immigration Research Initiative approximates that $3 billion would cover the remaining 175,000 workers who qualify for benefits.

Just above 70 thousand workers have already been prescreened to receive benefits, but could not obtain them due to the depleted funds.

Reports show that roughly 55% of the undocumented workers population in the state experienced a loss of work due to the pandemic between February 2020 and April 2021.

To be eligible, a worker must have resided in the state as of March 2020 and be a current resident who the pandemic has negatively impacted.

Additionally, one may be eligible if the family’s main financial provider died or became disabled due to COVID-19. The recipient must personally make less than $28,000 in the previous year.