Oct. 11, 2021 By Allie Griffin
New York State has closed applications for the Excluded Workers Fund as the $2.1 billion fund is running out.
The state department of labor stopped accepting new applications Friday night to the program, which provides monetary aid to undocumented New Yorkers who lost their jobs during the pandemic and didn’t qualify for federal aid — like unemployment insurance and stimulus checks — due to their immigration status.
The labor department has distributed $1.2 billion — including $454,584,000 to Queens residents — from the fund to nearly 120,000 applicants since it opened in August. More than 99 percent of approved applicants received the maximum amount of $15,600 to date.
“We must ensure that immigrant communities are supported in our recovery, and I made a commitment from my first day in office to get relief to New Yorkers in need as quickly as possible,” Governor Kathy Hochul said.
However, there are thousands more applications still pending with limited funding left. In fact, the department of labor cannot guarantee that there will be funds available to all who applied.
According to the governor’s office, the fund is nearing exhaustion and New Yorkers who submitted applications after Sept. 24 are not guaranteed payment.
In Queens, more than half of applications to the fund have not been approved. Roughly 89,700 applications were filed by Queens residents and about 44,000 have been approved, according to labor department data.
State Sen. Jessica Ramos, who spearheaded the legislation to create the Excluded Workers Fund, called for additional funding.
“With 99% of approved applications qualifying for Tier 1 benefits, it is clear Unemployment Insurance excludes hundreds of thousands of taxpayers unfairly, and too many workers, particularly upstate, were unable to participate.” Ramos said. “We need supplemental funding to continue serving working families on their way to economic recovery.”
Advocates are also pushing for more funding, noting that some eligible New Yorkers faced hurdles in applying to the program. They said workers struggled to secure necessary documents and that upstate residents, in particular, had less support in applying to the program.
“The fact that this fund has been depleted barely two months after it first opened is a testament to how badly New Yorkers need this lifeline…,” Bianca Guerrero of the Fund Excluded Workers coalition said. “We can’t let workers get left out in the cold.”
“Our coalition is committed to fighting for additional funding, and we look forward to working with the Governor and state legislature to ensure full, equitable access for excluded workers across the state.”
The labor department is reviewing applications in the order they were received and will distribute the complete $2.1 billion by the end of the month.