White Plains, NY - Today, workers, elected officials, and community members, led by the New York Immigration Coalition, from the Hudson Valley held a rally joining the growing chorus of calls for Governor Kathy Hochul and state legislators to add funding to the state’s Excluded Workers Fund, which just closed this past Friday as the program runs out of funding amid skyrocketing demand. Scores of workers across New York have not applied for the fund, particularly in upstate and rural regions, where workers have faced a series of hurdles to applying.
"We cannot abandon the essential workers who still need help," said Vanessa Agudelo, Hudson Valley Manager of Member Engagement, New York Immigration Coalition. "Not only do we have a moral obligation to these workers and their families, but the rural and upstate regions they live in will not recover if we do not provide these New Yorkers with the opportunity to thrive. It’s clear what Governor Hochul and the legislature must do; immediately refill the Excluded Workers Fund so that the families cut off from any sort of relief can finally receive the help they need."
“This has been a very helpful blessing to cope with pending expenses such as rent, electricity, internet for my 3 children who are studying,” said Ignacia Gonzalez, Essential Worker and Member, Women in Action Program, Catholic Charities. “One of them entered the university. These funds have helped me to get out of the stress that during the pandemic and after the pandemic we could not pay all the bills, I feel that now I can breathe and be more calm. I know a lot families need these funds that they are essential workers, too but they could not apply because They are illiterate or they did not have all the documentation. We need more funds to continue giving peace of mind to many families who continue to live in anguish and despair.”
“Catholic Charities is encouraged by New York State’s commitment to the Excluded Workers Fund, which continues to provide much needed assistance to New York’s most vulnerable working families. We can all agree, however, that more needs to be done as too many were left behind due to deadlines and application issues,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, Executive Director, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. “These workers, many serving as first line and second line responders, and their families still need support and are deserving of assistance. We urge the State to continue and complete its commitment to support our Excluded and Essential Workers. Together, we can help every New Yorker who served on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic and who continue to help in this important time of rebuilding and recovery of our great state."
"For almost a year, workers and advocates fought for a fund that should have been designated to essential workers from the start of the COVID-19 crisis. This life-saving economic relief would provide critical basic needs to hundreds of thousands of essential immigrant workers excluded from benefits due to their immigration status. We thank the NY State Legislature for finally making the Excluded Workers Fund possible. However, we knew $2.1 billion would not be enough to assist all qualifying New York immigrant essential workers in our state. Now-a month and half after the application became available- the fund has been fully expended, and yet thousands have still not had the opportunity to apply because they’re still gathering documentation or seeking application assistance.
On September 1st, Ida devastated New York just as we were starting to recover from a pandemic year. Essential workers have not only lost their homes, belongings, and vehicles, but they’ve lost all their documentation-the key to accessing this fund. Now more than ever, essential workers need economic support not only to pay off their pandemic debt as no relief was provided in 2020 but also to put their lives together in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. It is critical that New York has a fully resourced and accessible fund,” said Jirandy Martinez, Executive Director, Community Resource Center of Larchmont and Mamaroneck.
"The Excluded Worker Fund was a hard-won commitment from New York State to finally remedy the inhuman exclusion of day laborers, domestic workers, and so many other immigrant workers from their rights to both pandemic relief and unemployment insurance. We call on Governor Hochul to follow through on that promise, fully fund the EWF, and ensure that when New York accepts workers' labor, it also respects their rights," said Nadia Marin-Molina, National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
“The Excluded Workers Fund has been a lifeline for workers and families trying to find a way to recover from the economic devastation of the past 18 months,” said Carola Otero Bracco, Executive Director, Neighbors Link. “Neighbors Link has assisted over 328 people to file applications, yet so far only 185 have been approved. Hundreds of additional residents are on our waiting list and for them, there is no road to economic recovery without these funds. We must boost funding to ensure that all workers, regardless of immigration status, get the relief they deserve.
“We are heartbroken! After canceling hundreds of appointments to excluded workers that were pending to apply for the now exhausted Excluded Workers Fund. Hearing their cry of frustration and seeing their suffering is very sad, they were hoping to alleviate the hardships caused by the Pandemic and the ravages of Hurricane Ida,” said Jackie Agudelo, Executive Director, United Community Center of Westchester.
"We have a moral imperative to replenish the Excluded Workers Fund,” said Assemblymember Chris Burdick. “These are essential workers who otherwise would not be entitled to any pandemic relief. With the fund nearly exhausted, we need to act promptly to ensure these workers get the relief they do desperately need."
“The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated gaps in our social safety net, particularly with respect to people working in temporary, freelance and independently contracted jobs, as well as workers in crucial industries like construction, janitorial work, farming, transportation, hospitality, and more, who have been left behind by aid programs because of their immigration status,” said Westchester County Legislator Terry Clements. “The Excluded Workers Fund has been a crucial, much needed tool to help people survive and rebuild from COVID and minimize the total economic impact of the pandemic. I know our state lawmakers will look at the good this program has done for more than 100,000 New Yorkers, and ensure that funding for it continues until our COVID recovery is complete.”
The Excluded Workers Fund opened in August after a year-long organizing effort by excluded workers throughout the state. Excluded New Yorkers fought tooth and nail to be able to access economic relief that will allow them to get back on their feet after losing their incomes and unjustly being left out of federal and state government support during the pandemic.
More than 330,000 applications have been submitted to the program, which provides relief to workers who were cut out of pandemic aid programs, and more than 100,000 workers have had their applications approved. Nearly all applicants have received the higher tier of benefits available for the program - a one-time $15,600 payment before taxes. The state’s Department of Labor has already approved more than half of the budgeted $2.1 billion for distribution and the fund is nearing exhaustion.
On September 24, the Department of Labor posted a banner on its site informing new applicants that they would no longer be guaranteed funding, even if they meet all eligibility requirements. Instead, workers may be placed on a waitlist, with no guarantee that they will receive the money they applied for.