ITHACA -- As New York State lawmakers close in on a budget for the coming year, a host of Tompkins County electeds including Assemblywoman Anna Kelles will hold a press conference this afternoon to champion for the inclusion in the final state budget of $3.5 billion in funding for excluded workers, primarily undocumented workers and people recently released from incarceration who have been shut out from federal and state economic relief over the course of the pandemic.
Though the Senate and Assembly one-house budgets include $2.1 billion in funding for excluded workers, it is far less than the $3.5 billion that workers have demanded, a figure that would ensure weekly payments on par with the unemployment benefits other workers have received.
Earlier this week, dozens of workers in New York City launched a hunger strike for the fund called the “Fast for the Forgotten,” in honor of the hundreds of thousands of workers who have been excluded from aid to date. Workers in Westchester joined the strike yesterday. A number of state lawmakers, including Ithaca Assembly Member Anna Kelles, today pledged to fast for 24 hours in solidarity with the strikers.
What:Press conference in support of a $3.5B excluded workers fund
Where:City Hall - 108 E. Green Street, Ithaca, NY
When:March 18, 2021 -- 3:00 p.m.
Who:Assemblymember Anna Kelles
Mayor Svante Myrick
Pete Meyers, Tompkins County Worker Center
Carlos Gutierrez, Latino Civic Association of Tompkins County
Workers are calling for a $3.5 billion fund to provide retroactive, direct cash assistance to workers who haven’t been able to access unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, or other government assistance. An August 2020 Make the Road NY survey showed that 98% of unemployed undocumented workers had not received federal or state government economic assistance.
The Fast for the Forgotten is the final escalation in a months-long campaign to win funding for excluded workers, and comes after hundreds of workers led a march across the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges in support of an excluded workers fund. More than 75 people are expected to join over the course of the fast, including dozens of excluded workers.
A Fiscal Policy Institute report this week showed that a $3.5 billion fund workers would benefit nearly 275,000 New Yorkers, primarily undocumented New Yorkers and New Yorkers recently released from incarceration who cannot access unemployment benefits and have received no income support during the pandemic.
The federal stimulus package signed this month, like previous stimulus bills, continues to largely tie unemployment insurance and other benefits to immigration status. Without action at the state level, working people across New York will continue to be shut out from relief.