With the passage of the New York State budget, there is cause for renewed hope among undocumented workers who have suffered through the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic more severely than other New Yorkers.
Unlike many other New Yorkers, these tax-paying individuals have not been eligible for federal stimulus checks or state unemployment insurance. A proposal included in the final budget; the “Excluded Workers Fund” creates a $2.1 billion fund that will provide qualifying undocumented workers impacted by the pandemic with a one-time assistance payment.
The entirely state funded program has been praised by many as a crucial piece of legislation necessary to provide economic relief for many hard-working New Yorkers. However, not everyone is celebrating this first-of-its-kind legislation. The fund was a deeply controversial proposal and a hotly contested budget item due to the large price tag and concerns over fraudulent filings. The legislation, which was voted out of both houses last week, provides a framework for the Department of Labor to get the program up and running.
While the mechanics of the application process still need to be developed through regulation, the legislation creates a two-tier structure for payments. Individuals who can prove their identity, continuous residency before and after the pandemic, and work-related eligibility may receive a one-time payment of either $15,600 ($300 per week for 52 weeks) or $3,200 (the amount of federal stimulus money provided). The amount to be distributed depends on the documentation provided by the applicant.
The legislation also includes several safeguard provisions, including civil and criminal penalties, protecting both the applicant’s immigration status, and the funds themselves. Although not yet signed by the governor, the legislation is expected to be signed by early next week and would go into effect immediately.
For more information about active legislation, make sure to check NYSBA’s Governmental Relations Department website.