Aug. 5, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
Undocumented New Yorkers who lost their jobs in the midst of the pandemic and did not qualify for federal unemployment benefits can now apply for financial relief thanks to a new state fund.
The fund, called the Excluded Workers Program, provides out-of-pocket workers with a payment of up to $15,600 and is primarily for undocumented immigrants.
The program opened to qualified applicants Tuesday and $2.1 billion in total is being made available.
Unlike other employees, undocumented workers who lost their jobs—or had their hours cut—due to the pandemic did not qualify for federal unemployment benefits or stimulus checks. In an effort to compensate these workers, state lawmakers established the Excluded Workers Program as part of the 2021-2022 New York State budget.
To be eligible for a payment, workers must prove that they lost at least 50 percent of their weekly earnings between Feb. 23, 2020 and April 1, 2021 due to the pandemic.
Applicants must also show that they are state residents, have not already received any other unemployment benefits and earned less than $26,208 in the 12 months prior to April 2021. A resident who became the main breadwinner of a household due to a COVID-19 related death or disability may also apply.
The amount each applicant receives is largely dependent on the level of employment documentation that is furnished. The NYS Dept. of Labor is disseminating the funds.
There are two types of payouts listed by the NYS Dept. of Labor—a Tier 1 amount of $15,600 per applicant and a Tier 2 amount of $3,200 per applicant.
Tier 1 applicants need to provide a higher threshold of work documentation like annual tax returns or pay stubs whereas Tier 2 applicants face less stringent requirements. Tier 2 is targeted for workers who often get paid in cash and cannot easily prove income on paper.
For instance, Tier 2 applicants would need to provide alternative proof of employment like work-related text messages, travel records and an employer-issued ID card to qualify.
Applicants must establish that they worked for at least 15 hours per week for more than six weeks in the six-month period prior to being unemployed or having their hours cut.
The NYS Dept. of Labor estimates that it will take around six to eight weeks to process an application.
Approved applicants will then receive a one-time payment on a Visa prepaid card that will be mailed to the address provided on their application. The program will be discontinued once all the funds have been used up.
Interested applicants can apply by clicking on this link and filling out the online form. Application forms do not include questions about immigration status.