The $2.1 billion New York State Excluded Workers Fund was formed to provide relief to individuals who are ineligible for both state and federal unemployment assistance due to immigration status or other reasons.
But there was one catch: each applicant needed an Individual Taxpayer ID Number to receive funds, and an IRS backlog led to year-long processing times just to receive one.
Senator Chuck Schumer announced in Jackson Heights last week that the IRS has now set up an alternative, more flexible system for applicants in need, and a pending application will suffice. Applicants can receive a maximum of $15,600 in benefits from the fund.
“We have to spread the word,” said Schumer. “When you want to apply, there are seven offices around the city to go to. They’re not going to ask you for anything but your application and they’ll stamp it.”
Schumer said he was made aware of this issue by New York State Senator Jessica Ramos. He hopes this move by the IRS in New York will set a precedent for other states.
“Bringing back this money is a huge economic boom for our small businesses and our community,” said Ramos. “So with the IRS saying that they are going to recognize pending applications and that our neighbors will be able to use proof of those pending applications to qualify, it is a very, very big deal.
“We know a few of our neighbors have already begun to apply and have been approved,” she added.
But Ramos said the efforts cannot end there, and called on Schumer and his colleagues to push for comprehensive immigration reform.
Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa stressed that the maximum-tier benefit of $15,600 is merely a “drop in the bucket” for families, and that those who qualify for the second-tier benefits receive significantly less.
“We will ensure that the majority of the people that need this money will get the maximum amount,” she said. “These communities have been excluded because of papers and documents that they do not have, so the government must make a path for these communities to be fully included in society. This is part of it.”
Manny Castro, executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, said his organization has helped hundreds of people apply for the fund, only to find that many of them were excluded from it. He thanked Schumer for his efforts to help make the fund more accessible, but said the fight for relief won’t end there.
“What we were fighting for was $3.5 billion to truly be able to support everyone who needs it, we were able to get $2.1 billion,” said Castro. “We’re going to continue to fight until everyone that needs funds to recover from the pandemic is able to get it.”