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Excluded Workers Fund applications are closing in New York as $2B fund runs dry

A picture of a $20 bill, a $10 bill and a $1 bill
Jim Levulis

New York State’s Excluded Workers Fund is running out of cash, leaving many undocumented workers out of the $2.1 billion program.

When she took office in August, Governor Kathy Hochul prioritized the Excluded Workers Fund, created to assist workers who did not qualify for federal pandemic aid. Late Friday, the Department of Labor posted a notice on its website: "We are no longer accepting new applications. Applications are processed in the order they’re received. We cannot guarantee that funds will be available for claims submitted after 9/24/21."

Emma Kreyche is Organizing and Advocacy Coordinator at Worker Justice Center of New York.

"This is the wrong time to cut off access to this critical program. So many people in our communities are just learning about the program, or are still in the process of gathering the necessary proofs required to apply,” Kreyche said.

David Kelly with the Fiscal Policy Institute says it has been a groundbreaking program that filled a gap that no other state did, extending benefits to those who don't qualify for unemployment insurance.

“It helps individuals and families of course, it also helps local economies when people spend money in the grocery store, buy clothes for their for, the workers for their kids, buy school supplies for their kids. That's a boost to the local businesses as well. Overall, it's going to be a $2.1 billion boost to the New York economy,” said Kelly.

Jessica Maxwell with the worker center of Central New York says there’s a lot of misinformation circulating including rumors that anyone who received funding would be obliged to pay it back. And there have been other hurdles including obtaining proper documentation to help in determining eligibility for coverage.

Maxwell said “Sometimes we go through that process with somebody for an hour trying to sit down and figure out what they might have earned, only to find that maybe, you know, we helped a head of household, it turns out he earned $28,000. And the fund cutoff is very specifically at $26,208. And since his wife wasn't working, neither of them can apply for this fund.”

Activists had hoped to persuade Governor Hochul to issue an Executive Order or call for an emergency state legislative session to extend the program. The governor’s office has not responded to a request for comment.

Some Regions Lag in Excluded Worker Fund
Fiscal Policy Institute
Some Regions Lag in Excluded Worker Fund

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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