Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City would be partnering with the Open Society Foundation to create the New York City COVID-19 Immigrant Emergency Relief program. The Emergency Relief program will provide $20 million of relief directly to immigrant families in the form of a one-time, emergency relief payment similar to the stimulus checks that many Americans began to receive last week. The Open Society Foundation also donated $15 million to support the city’s Department of Education and provided additional funding to community groups working to release people held in immigrant detention centers.

Despite the sweeping relief packages that Congress has passed in the last few weeks, immigrants have largely been left without support. The stimulus checks from the federal government, for example, were issued only to U.S. citizens or U.S. residents with a social security number. As a result, both undocumented immigrants and people who pay taxes using a taxpayer identification number, which includes documented resident immigrants, are not eligible for the checks.

According to the Mayor’s Office, immigrants comprise 44% of the workforce in New York City and contributed approximately $232 billion to the City’s GDP. Further, of the one million essential workers who continue to work during the COVID-19 Pandemic—including health care workers, delivery workers, and EMS staff—over half are immigrants.

Despite their centrality to the New York community and economy, immigrant communities are disproportionately vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. The Mayor’s Office reports that over a third of NYC’s undocumented workers are low income, yet are ineligible for most safety net assistance because of their immigration status. The Emergency Relief program will begin to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to emergency relief and the support they need to survive the crisis.

The fund is initially intended to reach families who have been impacted by COVID-19 job loss and are experiencing financial distress; the one-time payments will be disbursed by community groups in the following amounts:

  • $400/individual 
  • $800 for couple or single parent with children 
  • $1,000 for family with multiple adults and children