New York Creates $2.1 Billion COVID-19 Relief Fund for Undocumented Workers—Could California Be Next?

According to a report from The New York Times, the State of New York recently announced the creation of a $2.1 billion fund to support undocumented workers who lost wages due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. A first-of-its-kind state program, the New York fund offers considerable promise for supporting people who need financial assistance. In this article, our immigration law firm explains how New York’s state unemployment relief fund for undocumented immigrants works and discusses the current policies in California.

New York COVID-19 Relief Fund for Undocumented Workers: Explained

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government put a program of enhanced unemployment benefits in place. Temporary emergency unemployment reforms helped to ensure that people could draw greater benefits and remain on the program longer. Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants are largely ineligible to claim unemployment benefits. The New York fund seeks to repair some of these inequities. Here are three key things to know about the New York COVID-19 relief fund for undocumented immigrant workers:

The $2.1 billion program is being referred to as the ‘Excluded Worker Fund’; it is meant for people who lost work but could not get unemployment benefits (undocumented workers;
The fund will offer a one-time payment of up to $15,600 to eligible workers; and
State officials estimate that as many as 300,000 people may be entitled to some form of compensation through the fund.

As New York’s Excluded Worker Fund is just being announced, there are still some remaining questions about how exactly the program will be implemented. More information is expected shortly on issues such as income and employment verification.

California Was Leading the Way—But More Support is Needed

In the early stages of the pandemic, California was a leader among states in providing support for undocumented people. When the first round of stimulus checks (Economic Impact Payments) left out undocumented residents, California launched a $75 million relief fund. Additionally, more recently, there has been a strong push among lawmakers in Sacramento to expand health coverage to low income undocumented immigrants.

Still, more support is needed to help vulnerable communities get through the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis. Many people and families have been hit hard by the virus and the resulting public health restrictions. California should consider following New York’s lead on this issue and create a public support program for immigrant workers affected by the pandemic.

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