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Protesters march across Brooklyn, Manhattan bridges, call for more pandemic relief for excluded workers

Undocumented workers in NYC call for more unemployment benefits 02:16

NEW YORK -- Advocates and undocumented workers marched across city bridges on Tuesday, calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to provide more money for unemployment benefits.

They're ineligible for federal relief and the state's funding has run out, CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported.

Protestors temporarily shut down lanes of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges to demand more pandemic relief.

"Immigrant workers lost everything during the pandemic, and those who receive these funds are able to get back on their feet. That's why we're here because there are thousands upon thousands more who did not receive those funds," said Diana Moreno of the group New Immigrant Community Empowerment.

Last year, New York state created the Excluded Workers Fund, which featured $2.1 billion in unemployment benefits for undocumented workers, the largest of its kind in the country. Nearly all of the 130,000 recipients received the maximum benefit of $15,600.

But now, the money has run out.

"When I finally applied, the fund had closed already," advocate Xichitl Gomez said through a translator.

Gomez explained she's a house cleaner whose employment was impacted by the pandemic, adding she is among the thousands who did not receive payments.

"It was so difficult that I had to go to the food lines and the food pantries," Gomez said.

Undocumented workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits and other government-related relief. That's why advocates are demanding an additional $3 billion to replenish the Excluded Workers Fund.

"There is enough funding. There was a windfall from the federal government for relief in New York state, so we know that there is revenue," City Councilmember Carmen de la Rosa said.

It's money protestors said is necessary to recover and address their most basic needs.

Gov. Hochul's office released the following statement:

"Gov. Hochul and the Department of Labor have distributed more than $2 billion to immigrant New Yorkers through the Excluded Workers Fund -- a commitment and level of benefits that far surpasses that of any other state. The governor's executive budget includes a commitment to work with the Legislature to determine the best way to invest an additional $2 billion in pandemic recovery initiatives. Gov. Hochul will continue working with legislators, community leaders and advocacy partners to support immigrant communities and vulnerable New Yorkers," Spokesman Jim Urso said.

In addition to the Excluded Workers Fund, advocates are also supporting separate legislation to make unemployment benefits permanent for undocumented workers.

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