FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 18, 2021
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“Legislature Supports $2.1 Billion in Aid to Excluded Workers; Report Shows $3.5 is Needed”
Read FPI’s report: Unemployment Compensation for Excluded Workers: $3.5 Billion Needed for 2020 and 2021
(Albany, NY) – New York State may be on the brink of providing unemployment benefits to workers who are currently excluded from the state’s unemployment insurance fund. The New York State Assembly and Senate both support a fund of $2.1 billion to extend benefits to undocumented workers and people leaving incarceration during the pandemic, and advocates are pressing for a fund of $3.5 billion.
“The need is urgent,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative. “Unemployment insurance has been a life-saver to so many New Yorkers. This would extend that same help to people who have been left out of federal aid.”
The report shows that while $2.1 billion is an impressive signal from the legislature, $3.5 billion is the amount that is needed to match the minimum benefits other workers receive and to continue that aid through the end of the year. The total includes $3.4 billion for benefits, and $110 million for administration and outreach, as already included in the Assembly’s proposal.
The benefit would be felt in families and communities around the state. Overall, roughly 274,000 excluded workers in New York are likely to be unemployed or have been unemployed at some point between the beginning of the pandemic last March through the end of this year. That includes 173,000 in New York City, 33,000 on Long Island, 40,000 in the Hudson Valley, and 28,000 in Northern and Western New York.
Unemployment compensation that matches the minimum amount other workers get would mean a weekly check of $450 for most of that period, and $750 for the period when New York was most intensely hit and the federal boost to unemployment insurance was highest, March to July of last year.
For families, that weekly benefit may be the difference between going hungry and having a square meal. The benefit to families also flows through to local communities: money spent on food, gas, and rent adds to the bottom line of local businesses and landlords at a time when it is much needed.
People who are undocumented, despite the large numbers who have been recognized as essential workers, are excluded from the federal unemployment insurance system, but this would create a way to include them in New York. People leaving incarceration in the midst of the pandemic are effectively shut out as well. Anyone who has been incarcerated is not likely to be able to show a recent work history that is required for unemployment insurance yet is also faced with a very difficult challenge looking for a job right now.
Read the report: Unemployment Compensation for Excluded Workers: $3.5 Billion Needed for 2020 and 2021
The Fiscal Policy Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education organization committed to improving public policies and private practices to better the economic and social conditions of all. FPI’s Immigration Research Initiative looks at immigration issues in New York State, and around the country.