New York is set to offer one-time payments of up to $15,600 to undocumented immigrants who have lost work due to the pandemic.
The move comes after Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers reached a deal on Tuesday over the state’s new $212 billion budget agreement. The benefits will be part of a $2.1 billion fund in the states budget to help those who are undocumented and can prove that they are New York state residents who have missed out on stimulus checks and unemployment benefits due to their immigration status. Documents that will be accepted to prove eligibility include drivers’ licences, state-issued ID’S, birth certificates, bank or wage statements and a previous W-2 or 1099 tax form.
Undocumented immigrants who are unable to meet the same levels of verification will only be eligible to receive up to $3,200. Whilst the figure of those who will benefit cannot be pinpointed, the New York based Fiscal Policy Institute has estimated that around 290,000 workers will benefit from the fund, including around 213,000 from New York City itself. However only around 92,000 workers across the state will meet the standards to receive the full amount of $15,600. This works out to be $300 per week for the last year since COVID restrictions destroyed the state’s economy. New York isn’t the first state to hand out relief payments to the undocumented, last year California pioneered a similar programme on a much smaller scale. The state contributed a sum of $75 million to a cash assistance program which offered undocumented workers between $500 to $1,000 on a first come, first serve basis.
Pew Research Centre has estimated that a total of 725,000 undocumented immigrants live in the state. The push for the relief payments has been spearheaded by immigrants-rights groups, with a group of undocumented immigrants spending the last three weeks on a hunger strike to advocate for government support. Ana Ramirez, hunger-striker and member of the New York Communities for Change group told AMNY on Wednesday that “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. Its actually been decades of pain, the pain of indifference and negligence.”
In the legislative arena, the fund was sponsored by State Senator Jessica Ramos, a progressive democrat from Queens. Gov. Cuomo said that the state wanted to show undocumented immigrants that “just because your undocumented doesn’t mean we don’t care and we don’t have compassion, and we don’t want to help.” He did however warn that the fund could become a target of fraud and he pushed for a requirement that applicants should provide an individual taxpayer identification number to receive any money from the fund. This provision was shelved due to concerns that it would exclude a sizeable group of undocumented immigrants without such ID’s.
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ARTICLE: NATHAN REID
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