Make the Road New York (MRNY) and other activists from across the state rallied outside of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Manhattan office last week to bring awareness to the shortcomings of the Excluded Workers Fund Program (EWF) that allocated $2.1 billion for people left out of previous relief programs.
The Fund Excluded Workers (FEW) coalition, a campaign of over 200 New York advocacy groups, including MRNY, secured billions in funding this past April after a year of civil disobedience. The organizations held a 23-hour hunger strike and a march that shut down the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
The EWF has less stringent requirements which allow undocumented immigrants to receive aid. The fund is not only available to undocumented workers — anyone who was not eligible for and did not receive unemployment insurance or other COVID-19 income relief may be able to receive aid through the EWF.
On Sept. 3, the governor’s office and the Department of Labor announced that $250 million from the EWF has already been released, and an additional $600 million is undergoing final verification for applicants identified as eligible, which is expected to be distributed by the end of the month. Since the program opened online applications, 90,000 people applied in just the first four weeks. Of those, 99 percent qualified for the maximum benefits of $15,600.
Bianca Guerrero, a coordinator for the FEW coalition, said that excluded workers have been waiting for these payments for far too long.
“The demand for this fund is staggering, and the need is absolutely undeniable after receiving nothing from the state and federal government for the entire pandemic: No unemployment, no federal benefits,” Guerrero said.