Almost a week after the deadline, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the approval of New York’s state budget of $220 billion where undocumented immigrants were left out.
Despite the intense calls from organizations and some political leaders and elected officials to look toward the most vulnerable sectors, Kathy Hochul’s last word has “completely disappointed” them.
Since the pandemic arrived in March 2020, immigrants have experienced abrupt changes in their economic, housing, and health situations, representing, according to reports and state data, the largest number of infections, deaths, eviction, and unemployed.
Undocumented immigrants, despite having little or minimal personal protective equipment to work at the height of the pandemic, became essential.
The effort of these people must have become a pattern of challenges. However, this year the governor of the state of New York has put a barrier to her development by not listening to her demands and including them in the budget.
Although this year $8 billion more was added to the state budget than last year, the bills presented by some legislators for the benefit of immigrants were not approved in their entirety.
Passing a second round and replenishing the Excluded Workers Fund with an additional $3 billion, the Coverage for All Act, the Good Cause Evictions Act, eliminating the license limit for Street Vendors and child care regardless of immigration status, were some of the legislation that would bring relief to immigrants after suffering the ravages of the pandemic.
Colombian-born Senator Julia Salazar, who represents Brooklyn’s 18th District, strongly criticized the governor, calling the state budget “unacceptable” because it does not “prioritize the needs of workers and exclude our undocumented neighbors from access to services that The rest of us enjoy it.”
Immigrants are excluded from the budget
Evidently, with the arrival of the pandemic, undocumented immigrants suffered sudden changes that have been highlighted during the public health crisis that triggered other social crises and serious consequences for thousands of families who were left unemployed, homeless, and economic income.
The pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities that immigrants have been exposed to, after New York became the global epicenter, with blacks and Latinos bearing the brunt of being among the largest number of infected and deceased. However, the virus did not create this problem, it made it worse. A systemic inequality that has existed for decades.
With an economy in trouble that has not yet recovered in 2022, with the arrival of new variants and, in addition, a state still shaken by the pandemic. Passing legislation such as the Excluded Workers Fund, the Coverage for All Act, the Good Cause Evictions Act, and removing the cap on licenses for Street Vendors should have become a priority for Governor Kathy Hochul, but her priorities were others.
He preferred to back $600 million in grants with taxpayer money to help build a new Buffalo Bills football stadium in Buffalo County in western New York.
“It commits public money to an NFL team owned by a billionaire, without being able to finance the Coverage for All Act,” wrote Senator Julia Salazar for not supporting a more complete version of this legislation that would have benefited undocumented immigrants.
Under the Coverage for All Act (A880/S1572) supported by several legislators, community organizations, and high-level elected officials, statewide health insurance was to be created for New Yorkers who are excluded from eligibility due to their status. migratory.
This meant that nearly 426,000 New York State residents who are currently ineligible for public health care programs due to their immigration status, and the nearly 250,000 who remain uninsured, will not receive quality health care.
Despite the extensive benefits that the approval of this bill would have generated, the governor ignored it. In New York City alone, $710 million would have been saved annually, in addition to increased life expectancy, job productivity, personal finances, and access to health care systems, including emergency room visits not covered.
The working class has been left out of the budget for not approving a second round and replenishing the Fund for Excluded Workers with an additional $3 billion, where the testimonies of immigrants denote what they themselves have affirmed as “feeling excluded.”
Despite the data presented by different surveys, interviews, or studies, this sector of the population that works in construction, restaurants, hotels, home helpers, or service workers, who were the most affected industries, will continue to face the economic and social caused by the pandemic.
The more than 177,000 people who are estimated to qualify for the New York Excluded Workers Fund, according to the report by the Immigration Research Initiative, will continue with outstanding debts and delayed rent payments, which practically the testimonies of the people who received the $2.1 billion fund approved in the last budget, that’s what they used it for.
“The budget clarifies which New Yorkers she represents and who the Governor works for in Albany. The Excluded Workers Fund remains empty. Our Governor chose to side with the forces of the rich and powerful over the interests of working families…at the very time New Yorkers brace for another contagious strain of COVID-19,” said Murad Awawdeh, Director executive of the New York Immigration Coalition.
Families from low-income households who continue to be at risk of displacement were not taken into account in this state budget, by not passing the “Eviction for Good Cause” bill, which would have provided tenants of non-regulated units with protections. basic permanent measures to prevent unjustified evictions and exorbitant rent increases.
The gradual housing crisis in New York City is imminently affecting Latino and Black immigrants, especially at a time when renters have few legal protections in the state and New York City is barely recovering economically.
This means that landlords will be able to evict tenants and make “unreasonable” rent increases.
Street vendors have also been left out of the budget, after being fired from their jobs, had to resort to this type of business to survive.
The more than 20,000 small business owners who are involved in street vending in New York, according to the Street Vendors Project, feel isolated and frustrated that their work for decades has been criminalized.
Governor Kathy Hochul did not approve the bills that allowed them to obtain legal permits and “work with dignity on the streets.”
By not being included in the budget and not being able to receive urgent help, these immigrant workers will be exposed to exorbitant fines that go far beyond their earnings.
“Over the last two years, immigrants, Blacks, and Latinos have put their lives on the line to keep New York running. We have asked that you recognize the value of our work and ensure a true recovery for all… Governor Hochul ignored our voices and instead focused on the needs of her donors, disrupting the budget process,” said José López, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York.
Across New York State, child care infrastructure has been in crisis long before the pandemic hit. For decades there have been efforts to try to finance child care.
This problem is serious because many immigrant and undocumented parents do not have access to quality or affordable care and many childcare providers earn less than minimum wage.
Although part of the state budget was added to this area, the news that undocumented children were left out was not well received by specialists in this area who have presented arguments as to why it should be financed.
“Slow implementation means parents will continue to be forced to pay high childcare costs or remain on waiting lists for years. The child care crisis in New York is urgent and important,” said Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.
As Gripper explained, at this rate families with a child born in 2022 will have to wait until the child is 4 years old to get a seat in daycare.
Immigrant advocates assured that the fight for the health and well-being of all New Yorkers will continue in the streets, in the halls of power, and at the ballot box.
“We’re ready to remind Governor Hochul or whoever holds the office that next year New York’s 4.4 million immigrants are the heart and soul of this state. They deserve the safety and protection afforded to all other New Yorkers.”
Some benefits approved in the budget
While the governor was expected to “do a lot more,” the state budget funded some major projects in health coverage, child care, and housing. However, as we mentioned in the previous section, there are still gaps to close for the benefit of the most vulnerable.
Regarding health care, for the first time in history, the state of New York will offer comprehensive health coverage only to undocumented immigrants over 65 years of age. This represents a first step in the urgent need to cover comprehensive coverage for all uninsured immigrant New Yorkers and gradually close a long-standing gap.
“It is a step forward, but it is not complete enough. We need to provide insurance to all essential workers of all ages,” said Becca Telzak, deputy director of the immigrant advocacy organization Make the Road New York.
The budget signed by the governor will also include funds to extend Medicaid coverage for mothers who have a child during the first year after pregnancy, regardless of their immigration status. This is a huge development given that New York State has a high maternal mortality rate due to high health care costs.
Also included in the budget was a child care subsidy for families earning up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).
This is expected to have a positive impact as New York’s child care infrastructure remains in crisis. Many parents do not have access to quality or affordable care, and many child care providers earn less than minimum wage, making them unable to pay for these services.
Even though they approved $7 billion in funding for child care over the next 4 years, not all children will have access. Many undocumented immigrants continue to be excluded from these benefits because the program will be largely funded by federal dollars.
To date, undocumented children are eligible for certain child care programs in New York City, such as Head Start and Pre-K and 3-K programs. However, they are not eligible for others.
“While the legislature’s efforts were vital, Governor Hochul was still able to preserve a health care system for the few instead of the many. Much more needs to be done, but we are pleased that we will no longer deny our seniors and post-pregnant women access to quality, affordable health care,” said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.
Renters will get a little reprieve after $800 million for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program was budgeted and ended on Jan. 15. In addition to $250 million to cover expenses for people facing utility delays and $125 million for landlords whose tenants are unwilling to apply for state aid and were financially impacted by the pandemic.
Funding for vital consumer assistance programs was also included in the budget by including $3 million for the expansion of the Educational Debt Consumer Assistance Program (EDCAP), which helps New Yorkers navigate their student loans, maximize their repayment options, apply for forgiveness, public loan discharge, and discharge programs.