New York State likely will offer one-time payments of up to $15,600 to undocumented workers hurt by the pandemic but who couldn’t access federal relief. Nearly 300,000 people may be eligible for the program.
As part of the $212 billion 2022 budget deal reached this week by state lawmakers and the governor, the state plans to allocate $2.1 billion to an Excluded Worker Fund. The budget passed the Democrat-controlled Legislature on Wednesday and now needs to be approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"The $2.1 billion fund to aid excluded workers in this pandemic is urgently needed, thoroughly deserved, and will benefit not only workers and their families but also the communities where they live,” David Dyssegaard Kallick, deputy director of the New York-based Fiscal Policy Institute wrote in a report analyzing the proposal.
The program makes up less than 1% of the budget deal, which also includes $2.4 billion for a rent relief program and a $1 billion aid package for small businesses, arts, entertainment, and restaurants, among other provisions.
Around 92,000 workers would qualify for the first tier of the program, which provides $15,600 to undocumented workers who can meet strict eligibility requirements, according to the analysis. Additionally, 199,000 workers would qualify for the second tier of the program that pays $3,200 per worker, the analysis found.
The first tier portion of the program is meant to pay what an undocumented worker would have received in federal unemployment benefits, while the second tier pays what those workers would have gotten from the three rounds of stimulus payments.
“The Tier 1 benefit of $15,600 is enough to make a real difference in the lives of families who have struggled through this pandemic year,” Kallick wrote in the report. “It is substantial enough to be compared to unemployment insurance, though it is still well below the amount other workers who lost their jobs could get.”
That $15,600 is less than the $34,000 in unemployment benefits the average unemployed New Yorker would have received over the course of the year, the analysis found. That figure increases to $50,000 if that New Yorker remains jobless until September.
New York City would receive the most funding for the program, getting $1.5 billion, followed by Long Island at $251 million and the Lower Hudson Valley at $143 million.
The analysis noted that undocumented immigrants contribute to state revenues by paying sales tax and property taxes through rent, while their employers pay into the unemployment insurance system even though the workers aren’t eligible for benefits.
Additionally, other researchers suggest that between 50% and 75% of unauthorized immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes as of 2008, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.
California is the only other state that set up a similar program when it established a $75 million cash assistance program last year that provided undocumented immigrants with a one-time $500 payment.