ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York has doled out $250 million so far from a $2 billion fund targeted at workers who are in the country illegally and have been excluded from other COVID-19 unemployment benefit programs, the state's governor said Friday.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state is reviewing an additional $600 million in benefits it could release by the end of September.
The program launched Aug. 31 and has received applications from over 90,000 New Yorkers. About a third of applications were submitted in Spanish.
Hochul said 50,000 have been approved so far.
Payments are going out sooner than the estimated time frame of six to eight weeks, according to Hochul.
“The Excluded Workers Fund is a critical lifeline to thousands of New Yorkers who were an integral part of keeping our state running during the worst moments of the pandemic, and that’s why I have pushed to make sure we get money out the door as quickly as possible,” Hochul said.
Applicants can apply online and call the state Labor Department's call center for assistance.
Manuel Castro, executive director of new immigrant community empowerment, said his organization has been hosting daily clinics to assist hundreds of immigrant workers and their families apply to the Excluded Worker Fund.
“When COVID-19 hit, immigrant workers were doing essential jobs on the frontlines in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic,” Castro said. “But when they lost work, they were excluded from any form of pandemic relief.”
Advocates for such workers said a backlog at the IRS had kept thousands of eligible New Yorkers from obtaining an individual taxpayer identification number needed to apply.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that applicants can provide proof of a pending individual taxpayer identification number and a stamped W-7 form to apply.
Hochul, the new governor, vowed on her first day in office to focus on getting COVID-19 relief out the door to New Yorkers.
She and others said that such programs, including a rental relief fund of more than $2 billion, failed to get out enough aid to New Yorkers in the final months of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration as he battled allegations he abused his power, including by sexually harassing current and former aides.
“People are just tired or fatigued and they’re looking at government as being dysfunctional,” Hochul said Aug. 26 on NY1′s “Inside City Hall with Errol Louis.”
“Why isn’t the money out for rent relief? Why don’t the excluded workers have their money coming in? Why are small businesses still waiting for assistance?" she said. "So I’ve got my hands on all that.”