Elected officials and community organizers are calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to immediately invest an additional $3 billion to the New York State Excluded Workers Fund to aid countless immigrant families previously left out of crucial financial support.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards sent a letter to Hochul on Wednesday, Dec. 8, urging the governor to replenish the fund that quickly ran out of funds to dispense.
“There is no doubt that our excluded workers still face severe economic hardship,” Richards said. “Even after this week’s announcement that the $2 billion fund has been fully exhausted, it is clear that a pressing need for additional financial assistance still exists here in Queens.”
After over a year of civil disobedience in hunger strikes and marches, activists were able to secure $2.1 billion from the state for excluded workers. Since online applications opened in early August, over $2 billion has gone out the door to families in need.
Now that there is no money left in the fund, activists have taken to the streets once again to make sure all excluded workers who needed this aid can still get it.
Workers chanted, “Who feeds us while we feed you” and “All I want for Christmas is to not get left behind,” as they marched down the streets near Bryant Park on Friday, Dec. 10.
Jackson Heights state Senator Jessica Ramos, the original sponsor of the bill that established the fund, joined activists groups, including Make the Road New York and others, to call for additional funding before the holidays.
Ramos said the excluded workers fund has been a tremendous success, and it desperately needs to be extended.
“We saw how this fund pumped important money into our small business,” Ramos said. “We helped our immigrants catch up on their bills, pay their rent, buy school supplies for their kids, put food on the table. We didn’t just hold this city down during the pandemic; we built this city. It is the immigrant workforce that has always made this city happen.”
Advocates have estimated that around 50,000 applicants were left out of aid due to a lack of funds. However, that number doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands they say face barriers to applying on time.
Guillermo Campos, a vendor at Corona Plaza, said when he got laid off during the pandemic, he wasn’t able to receive unemployment.
“When I found out about the first round of the Excluded Workers Fund, I was too ill to apply,” Campos said. “I wasn’t physically capable of applying. I’m here because I’m asking Governor Hochul to earmark $3 billion this coming year because $2.1 billion wasn’t enough. There were many like me who weren’t able to apply to the Excluded Workers Fund the first time around. But we’re going to win this time and we’re going to win $3 billion dollars.”
More than 350,000 New Yorkers applied for aid, nearly all receiving the highest tier of benefits — a one-time payment of $15,600.
Ramos pointed out how excluded workers could not receive unemployment or other government benefits during the height of the pandemic, yet still paid and pay taxes.
“Ninety-nine percent of the applications approved all paid their taxes the last three years. What does that tell you?” Ramos said. “It tells you that the excluded fund is our money, we put that money in there, and we deserve it back. We’re simply asking Hochul to give us what’s ours. Recognize our labor and bring justice to our communities.”