New York City, NY

Workers excluded from financial aid start a hunger strike in New York

Desiree Peralta

Street vendors and undocumented workers are getting no federal help.

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New York workers who have been excluded from federal and state economic relief programs began a hunger strike Tuesday as an extreme protest measure to pressure the State Legislature to include $ 3.5 billion in funding to help them survive the crisis created by COVID-19.

The state budget is going to be approved before April 1. With the deadline fast approaching, these essential workers, many of them undocumented immigrants, say that the amount that has so far been discussed in negotiations is not enough to meet the needs of thousands of families who have lost their jobs, are on the verge of homelessness and do not even have the income to put food on the table.

After the news broke that the Senate and the State Assembly included only $ 2.1 billion in funding for excluded workers, which is well below the $ 3.5 billion that those workers have been demanding, they decided to go on hunger strike dubbed 'Fast for the Forgotten,' as the last alternative to be heard in Albany.

According to NYDailyNews, more than 75 people have signed on to take part in the fast, including at least 40 directly impacted workers. Those taking part in the strike will start at the Church of the Ascension for the first few days before moving to Judson Memorial Church near Washington Square Park.

According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, the majority, 54%, of New York City residents working in essential jobs during the pandemic are immigrants.

Over a quarter of food and drug store, 22% of social service jobs, and 36% of cleaning service workers don’t have citizenship, the City Comptroller’s office recently reported.

An August 2020 MRNY survey showed that 98% of unemployed undocumented workers had not received financial assistance from the federal or state government.

The high number of undocumented workers either relying on essential jobs combined with those out of work but ineligible for federal COVID benefits makes the measure essential.

They insisted that they will not stop until they achieve the $ 3.5 billion to provide direct and retroactive cash assistance. They didn't have access to unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, or other government assistance.

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