USBnyc: Community Organizations Demand Mayor Provide Relief To New Yorkers Left Out Of CARES Act

April 16, 2020

Undocumented Immigrants & Others Hardest Hit By The Covid-19 Outbreak Are Excluded From Federal Programs To Support Workers And Businesses

Organizations who work closely with immigrant communities in New York City are calling on Mayor de Blasio to create a fund for workers and businesses who were excluded from federal COVID-19 relief programs, and to provide additional aid to low-income New Yorkers. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) - passed on March 27th - excludes over one million undocumented New Yorkers, mixed-status families, and cash economy workers, including those who pay taxes using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). This request for local action comes as the City begins the process of budget negotiations. New York State, which finalized its budget in early April, has not provided additional support to those excluded from federal relief.

Additionally, immigrant-run businesses faced higher barriers to qualify for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is already running out of funds. Immigrant-owned businesses comprise 48% of New York City’s roughly 220,000 small businesses, employing nearly half a million New Yorkers and contributing $195 billion to the city’s GDP annually. The letter from community-based organizations includes a request for the creation of a NYC Immigrant Small Business Grant, for which street vendors would be eligible to apply.

As a self-declared sanctuary city, New York must ensure that those excluded from federal relief are able to provide for themselves and their families. Other cities around the country with large immigrant populations - including Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC - have already implemented “gap funding” programs to ensure that those excluded from federal aid receive some sort of relief.

“The CARES Act represents the latest attempt by the Trump Administration to attack and punish undocumented immigrant families. At a time when the the federal goverment is systematically excluding undocumented immigrants from public programs, we need state and local leaders to step up and affirm the dignity of our immigrant neighbors and the great value that immigrant entreprenuers bring to our city and state,” said Rodrigo Camarena, Director of the Immigration Advocates Network.

"The CARES Act is shocking yet unsurprising in its exclusion of mixed status and undocumented immigrant families. As local, community-based organizations and other services providers, including UnLocal, work tirelessly, to provide financial support and emergency funding to our members, clients, allies and community members, the need is far greater than our organizations are able to address. There must be swift action to create a city and state fund to support immigrant families excluded from relief and as such, provide assistance to the families most impacted by this global pandemic, " said Michele Lampach, Executive Director of UnLocal.

"At the New York State Youth Leadership Council we've been providing emergency funding directly to undocumented families for a month through grants ranging from $500 to $1,000. Not nearly enough to meet basic living necessities in New York City. As a small undocumented youth led organization we cannot meet the demand of each family. Many of us are not eligible for any federal relief programs, or a stimulus check, because of our immigration status and as immigrant young people have become the caretakers of our entire family while still trying to focus on school. New York City benefits from our labor and contributions. In order for New York City to truly be a leading sanctuary city it must show up for the people it claims to protect,” said Angy Rivera, Co-Executive Director of New York State Youth Leadership Council.

“Street vendors are parents, caretakers, community members and leaders keeping our New York City streets safe. As small business owners and workers, they contribute significant tax dollars to state and local economies. Relief must be tailored to meet the needs of our smallest businesses, undocumented Americans, older populations, and workers operating in informal cash economies who play a crucial role not just in our city's culture and economy, but as leaders in the urgent response to the pandemic. Excluding our most vulnerable community members from disaster relief is nothing less than a human rights violation. Current systems of assistance and emergency relief must change to ensure the needs of all New Yorkers are met,” said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, Deputy Director of the Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center.

"Although immigrant businesses and workers are at the heart of New York City's economy, they have been excluded from federal relief efforts. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, many struggled to pay rent. They were already in a precarious position, and now the virus is threatening to wipe out their lives and livelihoods altogether. This is unacceptable, especially in a city that proudly proclaims its sanctuary status. New York's recovery efforts need to be bold and universal, not exclusionary," said Karen Narefsky, Senior Equitable Economic Development Organizer at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development.

“New York City stepped up several years ago to be among the first U.S. cities to fund a worker cooperative ecosystem that empowers workers to collectively own their own businesses. That ecosystem now includes numerous immigrant-led worker cooperatives with the dual challenge of a misunderstood legal structure and immigrant identities. New York City must lead again and in ensure that, where the CARES Act fails to provide relief to all during this pandemic, it will provide resources to support undocumented immigrants in maintaining cooperative, sustainable and vital community-based businesses,” said Julian Hill, Supervising Attorney for the Capacity Building practice at TakeRoot Justice.

“Immigrants are fighting against the pandemic on the frontlines at the risk of their own lives to uphold essential services in this city and protect our community. Yet the CARES Act, unsurprisingly,  ignores the immigrant community’s needs and contributions. To make things worse, assistance programs from the city are also failing to adequately engage with immigrant communities,” said Ahyoung Kim, Small Business Project Manager at the Asian American Federation. “Economic recovery cannot take place without assistance for Main Street's small businesses, and we cannot afford to ignore the urgent needs  of the immigrant community for economic relief. For years now, Asian businesses have created half of net new economic activity in New York City and half of net new employment and shaped the vibrant economy of this city. NYC should step up now and should fill in the gaps in aid caused by the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration and provide the protection and assistance our hard-working immigrant community deserves.”

“The same workers and businesses that the CARES Act left out are the workers that are on the front lines of this pandemic. As other cities begin to step up to support immigrant communities, New York should have been leading the way in demonstrating how a sanctuary city protects its immigrant residents and businesses during a crisis. We urge New York City to take immediate, wide-reaching steps to provide relief for immigrant New Yorkers,” said Carlyn Cowen, Chief Policy and Public Affairs Officer at Chinese-American Planning Council.

“Where the CARES act failed, our State and City must step in. Our society will only recover from the COVID-19 crisis if all of us, especially undocumented immigrants, grassroots cultural spaces and workers, and immigrant-run small busisseses, can access real support services and financial relief without fear. We must face the pandemic collectively and set the tone for an inclusive and more equitable reconstruction,” said Olympia Kazi of the NYC Artist Coalition.

“In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Superstorm Sandy, the lack of support for immigrant low-wage workers put them and their families in harm’s way, even while they too courageously participated in hazardous emergency response and recovery efforts. Today, immigrant workers continue to be on the front line as  essential workers as well as disaster relief volunteers. Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak is showing how little we’ve learned from these past emergencies. While much of our city shuts down, and New Yorkers bunker down indoors or escape the city, many of these workers are exposing themselves to the virus to deep clean our offices, public spaces, and homes without the protective equipment they need or any real assurance they’ll be treated if infected,” said Manuel Castro, Executive Director of the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE). “We join the chorus of advocacy organizations calling on New York City to take immediate bold action to provide relief for our immigrant community. Our immigrant workforce is risking their lives to keep us safe. We must do everything in our power to protect them and not forget them as before.”

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