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Undocumented Workers In New York State Now Eligible For Pandemic Relief, $2.1 Billion In Aid Set Aside In State Budget

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Undocumented workers in New York State are now eligible for pandemic relief.

A record $2.1 billion in aid was set aside in the state budget that was signed earlier this week.

When Annalilia Leon lost her housekeeping clients during the pandemic, she learned how to make face masks thanks to help from the Worker's Justice Project.

Leon spoke to CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas in Spanish with Juan Carlos Romero providing translation.

"She was able to survive during the pandemic through donations and financial help from friends," Romero said.

After all, the profit from selling masks could only go so far.

Leon did not qualify for unemployment, stimulus payments or other pandemic aid because she's undocumented.

"She felt that she was excluded but also sort of, in a way, made invisible," Romero said.


Now, Leon is among the estimated 300,000 people across New York eligible for the Excluded Workers Fund after $2.1 billion in aid for undocumented workers passed this week in the state budget.

Individual payments up to $15,600 will be given to those not eligible for previous benefits who can show proof of living in New York and lost income due to the pandemic.

The New York Immigration Coalition was among many groups lobbying for the controversial funding.

"Without immigrant New Yorkers, there isn't very much of a local economy, so this is going to really reinvigorate local economies," said Murad Awawdeh, co-executive director of the Immigration Coalition.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the budget, which approved the fund, but also raised concerns about potential fraud.

Attorney General Letitia James says her office will provide some oversight.

Despite health and safety concerns during the past year, Leon never stopped working.

"This is a social justice cause and she is happy that it got approved," Romero said.

She's hoping now for a shot at an economic recovery, just like everyone else.

Opponents raised concerns about the price tag of the bill and the message it sends to other undocumented workers.

Details regarding how to apply for the funds are still being established.

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