Negotiations are underway with New York state lawmakers to create a $2.1 billion fund that would allow both illegal immigrants and those recently released from jail to receive unemployment benefits.

The New York Post reported that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office and legislators were working on the details of the “Excluded Workers Fund,” which would be included in the late 2021-2022 state budget.

The proposal intends to help residents who were not eligible for aid, such as illegal immigrants and those who were just released from jail.

New York State Senator Julia Salazar implied the resistance to the proposal was because of… racism. Salazar said, “If this fund were for US-born property owners or white business owners, these members would vote for it. Maybe we should just call it the Essential Workers Fund and see if that works for them instead.”

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One advocacy group pushing the proposal, #FundExcludedWorkers, had the following messages on their website:

Tell Speaker Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins that we must tax the rich to create an Excluded Worker Fund to provide direct income support, equivalent to unemployment benefits, for undocumented New Yorkers, people recently released from incarceration or detention, and other excluded workers.


Tax the rich to fund our excluded and essential workers.

The #FundExcludedWorkers group is pushing for a $3.5B fund.  Some activists have started hunger strikes, others are marching in protests. A tweet from the New York Communities for Change said,  “Massive march through the streets of Yonkers in solidarity with hunger strikers who have gone 19 DAYS WITHOUT FOOD fighting for justice for excluded workers.”

The proposal would fund approximately 187,000 illegal immigrants and 87,000 recently incarcerated people. The maximum benefit allowed would be $28,600 for the March 2020 – March 2021, and $17,500 for April through December of 2021.

Opponents of the plan are not happy. New York State Senator Anthony Palumbo tweeted, “The last thing our struggling economy & taxpayers need is 1 of the largest tax increases in state history. That’s exactly what State Democrats are trying to pass in the State Budget; more programs, including $2.1Bln providing jobless benefits 2 illegal immigrants & former inmates”

The proposal is tied to the 2021-2022 state budget, which has yet to be passed.

This piece was written by Ray Dietrich on April 4, 2021. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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