More than 170 priests and faith leaders in New York signed a letter to be widely published Tuesday in which they called for additional help for workers not covered by unemployment benefits and federal pandemic assistance.
Advocates are calling for the replenishment of what is known as the Excluded Workers’ Fund after lawmakers refused to support additional money for the program in their state budget proposals this month. Governor Kathy Hochul and the Legislative Assembly are expected to reach a budget agreement next week.
“These excluded, essential workers have done their part to make New York a decent place to live,” the clergy wrote in the letter. “Our churches have done our part with charitable support to alleviate their suffering caused by lost income during the pandemic. We can not do much more to help them.”
The fund is intended to assist workers who are not eligible for federal assistance, including pandemic assistance. Many of these workers are undocumented New Yorkers.
Last year, legislators and the then government. Andrew Cuomo agreed to a $ 2 billion fund intended to provide assistance to these workers. This year, some lawmakers and advocates want to see this money become permanent in the state budget.
Hochul’s budget proposal in February contained an unallocated pot of $ 2 billion, but left it to lawmakers how the money should be spent amid calls for additional funding to help tenants and landlords who continue to fight the economic aftermath of the pandemic.
Advocates for excluded workers have meanwhile stepped up an advocacy campaign around New York designed to raise awareness of the issue. They have protested outside the offices of state lawmakers and held demonstrations on bridges to push for funding.
Many of the pastors signing Tuesday’s letter come from Long Island, a key foothold for both parties this election season and are considered a potential swing region.
“The Excluded Workers Fund was a morally correct and financially sound public policy decision in 2021 and will remain so in 2022,” they wrote in the letter.