The state dedicated a total of $2.1bn to an Excluded Worker Fund, making one-time payments to undocumented people who lost work during the coronavirus outbreak, which shut down New York City last spring.
This week, the New York legislature passed the measure as part of a larger $212bn budget aimed to jump-start the state’s economy.
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Undocumented workers are eligible to receive $15,600 if they can prove they are New York state residents who are ineligible for unemployment benefits due to their immigration status and lost income due to the pandemic.
Other undocumented immigrants who cannot meet the same verification level will be eligible for $3,200 – the amount of federal assistance payments many Americans have already received but which undocumented immigrants have been unable to claim.
The Fiscal Policy Institute, a New York-based policy group, estimated that 290,000 workers would benefit from the Excluded Worker Fund, including 213,000 in New York City. About 92,000 workers in New York state will be eligible for the entire $15,600 payment.
About 725,000 undocumented immigrants live in New York state, according to the Pew Research Center.
Immigrant-rights groups had pushed for relief payments, and a group of undocumented immigrants spent the last three weeks on hunger strike to push for support from the state.
“There have been 23 days without food. Twenty-three days when I was hungry and in pain. But it hasn’t just been 23 days. It’s actually been decades of pain, the pain of indifference and negligence,” Ana Ramirez, an undocumented worker and a member of the New York Communities for Change group, told AMNY on Wednesday.
“Today, our work today has been recognized. Our dignity has been recognized, and our dignity has been lifted bypassing this fund.”
Last year, California introduced a similar relief program, but on a much smaller scale. The state contributed $75m to a cash assistance program that offered undocumented immigrants between $500 to $1000 on a first-come, first-served basis.
California’s relief program was expected to assist up to 150,000 undocumented immigrants. More than 2 million undocumented people live in the state.