New York Lawmakers to Provide Undocumented Immigrants, Ex-Convicts with Billions in Unemployment Benefits

Mexican-Americans gathered in Times Square to demand "drivers licenses for all," including undocumented immigrants. New York, NY, February 09, 2019. Photo credit: Scootercaster /, licensed.
Mexican-Americans gathered in Times Square to demand “drivers licenses for all,” including undocumented immigrants. New York, NY, February 09, 2019. Photo credit: Scootercaster /, licensed.

NEW YORK, NY – According to Politico, Democratic lawmakers in New York State are in the process of finalizing legislation that, if passed, would provide billions of dollars in unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrants and ex-convicts, two groups that have been excluded from all previous federal COVID-19 relief bills.

The bill, known as the “Excluded Workers Fund,” would provide $2.1 billion in payments for those that are eligible for the program, such as illegal immigrants and ex-inmates who have not yet developed the work history since their release needed to qualify for traditional unemployment benefits at the start of the pandemic.

Those that qualify would receive a retroactive $600 for each week they were unemployed from March 27 through July 31, 2020, in addition to $300 for each week from Aug. 1, 2020 through Sept. 6, 2021. Under that model, some recipients could receive over $27,000 in relief funds spread out over lump sum payments of $20,700 and $6,600 respectively, reports say.

State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), one of the lawmakers at the forefront of the proposal, said that getting money to illegal immigrants and former inmates would help heal the state’s economy, still heavily-bruised from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would argue that they realize the economic impact of this particular segment of New Yorkers not having disposable income,” she said. “That must be crucial in some of the smaller towns and villages across the state — we’re talking about farm workers, we’re talking about poultry workers, we’re talking about domestic workers. All those folks need to be able to spend money.”

Currently, Ramos said discussions on the proposal with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office are centering on “eligibility and access” for the program, if it is passed into law.

Initially, there had been surprisingly little pushback on the proposal from New York Republicans when it was first announced, but as the Excluded Workers Fund looks to be inching closer and closer to reality, some NY GOP members have begun to express their disapproval over the idea of billions of dollars going to non-taxpayers.

In a statement released on Wednesday, State Senator Daphne Jordan (R-Halfmoon) said that the Excluded Workers Fund is yet another example of “Albany’s fiscal irresponsibility with hard-working taxpayer’s money.”

“The latest outrage is an effort to potentially establish an ‘Excluded Worker Fund’ and give $2.1 BILLION in taxpayer dollars to illegal immigrants and released convicted felons,” she said. “By some reports, this new slush fund would provide over $27,000 per person to the very people who broke our laws. The misguided measure also would provide tax dollars to persons who have not even paid into the system. This outrageous scheme is the latest in a long line of state government’s misplaced priorities.”

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