Albany, NY – Democratic lawmakers and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo struck a $2.1 billion deal on Tuesday to give unemployed illegal immigrants who weren’t eligible for federal financial help during the pandemic up to $15,600 each.
The Excluded Workers Fund was announced as part of a broader $212 billion state budget agreement that legislators and the governor’s administration dickered over until April 6, well-past its April 1 deadline, Lohud reported.
The effort is the biggest of its kind in the nation and has been championed by progressives as a sign of the state’s politics shifting farther left, The New York Times reported.
Republicans criticized the move as tone-deaf at a time when many New Yorkers all over the state are struggling.
Democrats have struggled with finding a way to justify having voted for a measure that will be associated with tax hikes during the next campaign, The New York Times reported.
“The question is not, do you help these workers, it is how do you do it and how do you structure it in a way where it is defensible in these districts,” Bruce Gyory, a Democratic political consultant, explained.
Gyory said rural and suburban voters might think the massive payout to illegal immigrants was unfair and expensive, The New York Times reported.
Lawmakers engaged in a Twitter war and exchanged personal insults on social media as they argued over eligibility for the Excluded Workers Fund.
The New York plan is massive in comparison to California’s previously record-breaking $75 million cash assistance program in 2020 that gave illegal immigrants a $500, one-time cash payout, on a first-come, first-serve basis, The New York Times reported.
The Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, said the proposed fund would benefit about 290,000 people in New York.
Under New York’s plan, undocumented workers could get up to $15,600 – or $300 per week for the last year – if they can prove they were state residents who were ineligible for federal unemployment and suffered lost income during the pandemic, The New York Times reported.
Others who can provide just residency, identity, and some work documentation can get up to $3,200 each.
Democratic leadership has called the Excluded Workers fund a “moral imperative” and pointed out that small businesses had also gotten a boost from the state budget, The New York Times reported.
“To deny excluded workers benefits after we relied on them to get us through this historically difficult year would be immoral and unjust,” New York State Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris said.
Republican opponents pointed to the impending tax hike as a move toward forwarding a progressive agenda in the state, The New York Times reported.
“Democrats are raising taxes and using your federal stimulus dollars to enact a radical agenda rather than helping veterans, small main street businesses, teachers and senior citizens,” New York State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt complained.
Political experts said Democrats worry that they’ll face the same kind of political backlash that followed granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants in 2019, which they survived, The New York Times reported.
But the illegal immigrant driver’s licenses didn’t cost New York taxpayers $2.1 billion.
“That number would resonate with people saying, ‘Wow, I struggled through this whole pandemic, I’ve followed all the rules, have paid taxes and done everything I’m supposed to be doing,’” New York State Assembly Minority Leader William A. Barclay told The New York Times.
Sources familiar with the negotiations said that the governor pushed hard to have stricter qualifications for illegal immigrants receiving a state hand-out.
Cuomo wanted applicants to provide an individual tax ID number which would exclude all illegal immigrants who have never legally paid taxes, The New York Times reported.
Lawmakers initially wanted to include recently-incarcerated individuals in the government payout because they didn’t qualify for unemployment for the time they were behind bars.
While Democrats stopped short of taking the measure that far, recently-released illegal-immigrant former inmates may qualify for a handout under the Excluded Workers Fund if they can prove they lost income once they were out of prison, The New York Times reported.