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Report: New York’s Excluded Workers Fund is a model for the future, and other states

new report makes the case for New York to continue its Excluded Workers Fund, which was started during the pandemic to provide payments to undocumented workers and others who lost income but were not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Applications opened last August and closed in October, after the $2.1 billion allocated to it were spent.

David Dyssegaard Kallick, director of the Immigration Research Initiative and co-author of the report, noted the fund has helped 130,000 people, which is about 40% of those who are eligible. Advocates are calling for not only adding $3 billion to the existing fund, but setting up a permanent fund for excluded workers.

“There’s no reason that these people should be left out just because they weren’t fast enough to apply for a program that they qualify for,” Dyssegaard Kallick argued. “And then let’s talk about the long term as well; we can make this something that’s not just every time there’s a crisis, but that’s there year-in and year-out for people who are part of our communities.”

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

Advocates have been calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul and the New York state Legislature to include funding for excluded workers in the state budget, which must be finalized by April 1. A weekslong march is underway from New York City to Albany to call for an end to exclusion.

Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and a co-author of the report, said everyone who lives and works in New York deserves the same access to benefits. He pointed out losing a job can put families in precarious situations, with ever-increasing costs of housing and other basic needs.

“Having some ability just to get a little bit of income in between jobs really makes a big difference for people’s family stability and being part of the community,” Stettner explained. “Not having to have their kids switch out of schools or move all around the city because people don’t really have very much in savings.”

The report noted other states and localities have followed New York’s example, such as New Jersey, which successfully created a similar program on a smaller scale. Johnson County in Iowa created a $2 million fund for excluded workers, and other campaigns occurred in California, Colorado, Washington state and Washington, D.C.