This week, the New York state legislature approved of a $212 billion budget aimed to jumpstart the state’s economy - including a $2.1 billion “Excluded Worker Fund” that will provide payments of up to $15,600 to undocumented migrants financially affected by COVID-19.
Individuals who can prove that they were residents of New York throughout the pandemic and were ineligible for federal unemployment benefits, resulting in a loss of income, qualify to receive the $15,600 payment.
According to the New York Times, “Others who can prove at least their residency and identity, and provide some work documentation, could be eligible for a lower sum up to $3,200.”
Of the estimated 290,000 total qualifying beneficiaries, up to 92,000 individuals will receive the $15,600 and up to 199,000 individuals will receive the $3,200, the Fiscal Policy Institute found. And, an estimated 725,000 "undocumented migrants" lived in New York as of 2016, according to Pew Research Center.
The "Excluded Worker Fund" represents a progressive shift within the New York legislature, as the Democratic majority State Senate and Assembly sided with progressive lawmakers who have been pushing the proposal for over a year.
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Rob Ortt, the Republican minority leader in the State Senate, argued that Democrats are enacting a “radical agenda.”
“Democrats are raising taxes and using your federal stimulus dollars to enact a radical agenda rather than helping veterans, small main street businesses, teachers and senior citizens,” he said.
But Democrats argue the fund is morally necessary and it would be “unjust” to exclude the undocumented workers from financial benefits.
“To deny excluded workers benefits after we relied on them to get us through this historically difficult year would be immoral and unjust,” argued Michael Gianaris, a Democrat deputy majority leader in the Senate.
On Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) expressed his support for "doing the right thing," but said he is concerned about the possibility of fraud.
“Support for excluded and unemployed workers, just because you are undocumented doesn't mean we don't care and we don't have compassion, and we don't want to help,” said Cuomo. “It is difficult to do it in a way that can be administered without fraud, and that's obviously a major concern for us that we protect every tax dollar.”
“Until the Attorney General reviews and signs off on the program, we will not implement the program, because we want New Yorkers to know, yes, we're compassionate and we're doing the right thing," Cuomo also said, "but we're also doing it smartly and intelligently, and the Attorney General's approval of the program will do just that."