The 2022 New York State Budget created a $2.1 billion program for workers who have lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic, but are ineligible for Unemployment Insurance, federal stimulus payments, or other federal COVID-related benefits due to their immigration status.
Immigrant communities have been disproportionately burdened by the pandemic in terms of their health and employment. Now, over half a million workers excluded from various benefits due to their immigration status can now receive necessary economic relief. Recently incarcerated individuals, however, were ultimately excluded from the bill.
While the Fund is meant to benefit undocumented workers excluded from financial assistance, the verification requirements will be a barrier to access for some. The application process will not require details about citizenship, immigration status, or lawful residence. Additionally, documents provided cannot be disclosed or shared with an agency enforcing immigration law like ICE or Customs and Border Protection. Advocates continue to seek further data privacy protections.
To qualify, there is an income cap and three eligibility requirements. You must have made less than $26,800 in individual income in the twelve months before the Fund takes effect.
The first eligibility requirement is proof of identity with documents to establish at least four points. A valid New York state driver’s license or IDNYC card is worth four points while a valid non-U.S. passport is worth three points. A marriage certificate or divorce decree is worth one point.
Second, you must provide documents to prove ongoing New York residency before March 27, 2020 such as a lease, letter from a homeless shelter, or bank statement. You can submit the same documents to prove identity and residence as long as one has your photo and date of birth.
Lastly, you must have had total or partial loss of household income after February 2020 due to the pandemic, including if you became the breadwinner after the death or disability of the head of household. If you don’t have any of the documents listed as examples, you may submit other documents that the Department of Labor will review. The Commissioner of Labor will approve applications, but you can request a review of a denial.
If deemed eligible, you can receive a one-time payment according to a two-tier system. There are three ways to qualify for tier 1, a benefit of $15,600, or $300 for 52 weeks including:
• Filing a tax return for 2018, 2019, or 2020 using a valid U.S. Individual Taxpayer Identification number.
• A letter from an employer, valid paystubs, wage statement, wage notice, W2, or 1099 showing at least six weeks of work in the six-month period before demonstrating eligibility for the Fund. The letter should state the dates of employment and why the employee is no longer employed there.
• Providing other documents specified by the Commissioner of Labor.
Tier 2 is for excluded workers who do not fall under tier 1 but can prove their identity, state residency, and alternative proof of work-related eligibility. Tier 2 is a benefit of $3,200, the total amount of the three federal stimulus payments to date. The Commissioner of Labor makes determinations as to alternative proof provided.
The State Department of Taxation and Finance will automatically deduct $780 from tier 1 and $160 from tier 2. Additional details about the application process will be forthcoming from the Department of Labor.