NEW YORK — They consider themselves the forgotten workers.
Unemployment insurance and federal stimulus checks have kept many people afloat. But the same lifeline has been out of reach for undocumented working people who don’t qualify for most government aid.
“It’s street vendors, grocery store workers, people that make the city run,” said DRUM activist Fahd Ahmed at a rally Friday.
By the grace of food pantries, lenient landlords and friends, many are barely surviving.
“Many of the members of our community continue to suffer,” said Hispanic Federation President Frankie Miranda.
Thanks to lawmakers, New York plans to offer one-time payments of up to nearly $16,000 to undocumented immigrants who lost work during the pandemic. It’s part of a $2.1 billion excluded worker fund in the state budget, the largest fund of its kind in the country.
The exact sum of $15,600 seems large, but represents a full year’s worth of unemployment. It comes out to $300 a week over 52 weeks.
But among the needed items for eligibility is an individual taxpayer ID, a number that can only be issued by the IRS and a process that has an agency backlog of 17 weeks.
“If they don’t get the money by September, they can’t get it,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Schumer and those who represent these workers are sending a letter to the IRS Commissioner demanding they speed up the process and hire more workers, saying far too many are already suffering.
“They fell through the cracks of the existing safety net,” said State Sen. Jessica Ramos.
Schumer pointed out that in the last stimulus, lawmakers gave the IRS an additional $1.5 billion for administrative expenses. He wants taxpayer ID processing prioritized and for the IRS to reach out to let communities know the relief fund exists and how to apply.