Back when he was still a Governor, Andrew Cuomo was proposing a controversial plan to provide financial assistance to undocumented immigrants in New York who lost their jobs during the pandemic. As non-citizens, these individuals did not qualify for stimulus checks provided by leading Democrats. Now, Cuomo and other New York politicians aim to offer a one-time payment of $15,600 to help them recover.
The $2.1 billion fund, approved by lawmakers and allocated from New York state’s budget, is designed to aid approximately 300,000 New Yorkers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 but were ineligible for other stimulus funds because of their immigration status. This fund is part of the state’s new $212 billion budget agreement that was reached five days past its April 1 deadline.
This fund has sparked heated debate among Democrats, dividing them between progressive Democrats advocating for support for undocumented immigrants and conservative Democrats preferring to reserve taxpayer money for citizens.
Protesters demanding the relief fund organized demonstrations outside government buildings and participated in hunger strikes to emphasize the urgency of their cause.
Cuomo argued that New Yorkers must show “compassion” for those struggling during the pandemic without access to federal relief. To receive the relief money, workers must prove eligibility by presenting documentation such as driver’s licenses, state-issued IDs, birth certificates, school transcripts, utility bills, bank statements, or employment and tax records.
“Just because you are undocumented doesn’t mean we don’t care and we don’t have compassion, and we don’t want to help,” Governor Cuomo stated.
Nevertheless, Cuomo expressed concerns about potential fraud associated with the undocumented worker relief fund. Before implementation, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and New York State Attorney General Letitia James will review the plan to ensure its integrity.
Cuomo explained the importance of protecting taxpayer dollars and the need for fraud protection measures. He referred to the unemployment insurance program for citizens, which faced significant fraud despite protective measures. To address these concerns, Cuomo requested that the Comptroller and Attorney General review the program beforehand to ensure that anti-fraud protections are in place.
By providing financial assistance to undocumented immigrants, New York state aims to alleviate the hardships faced by a vulnerable population during the pandemic. This move has reignited the debate on the use of taxpayer money and the need to balance compassion with practical concerns.