ITHACA, N.Y. –– Representatives from the Tompkins County Workers’ Center and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick came together Friday to support Assemblywoman Anna Kelles in her fight to expand funding to support “excluded workers” including undocumented workers and people recently released from incarceration in the 2021-22 New York State budget. Kelles visit comes as a final push before budget decisions are finalized on April 1.
The assemblywoman is just one of several lawmakers calling for $3.5 billion in funding to create a “Worker Bailout Fund” in order to provide relief, including direct payments to families, for those excluded from previous stimulus acts. The money for the fund would come from a billionaire tax.
“They do work like everybody else. A lot of them are doing the gig economy work, they’re doing the frontline work and they have been most likely to get covid and yet we have not protected them at all,” Kelles said. “There is absolutely no reason undocumented individuals who are doing the exact same work shouldn’t have been getting the exact same support.”
Some progress has been made to support these workers –– the Senate and Assembly one-house budgets include $2.1 billion in funding for excluded workers –– but Kelles said Friday that it’s not enough.
“So we’re doing two things. One, we’re saying we need more –– there’s no reason why we can’t keep pushing…Two, if we don’t continue to push for the most that we can, then we might lose the $2.1 billion that we have.”
Mayor Myrick shared his thoughts on why the Worker Bailout fund will in the long-run benefit New York cities and towns by keeping workers in their homes, paying rent.
“Here in the City of Ithaca funding those excluded workers, treating them like everybody else in this country that works hard, is going to improve the lives of small business owners, it’s going to improve the lives of local governments that need to pave the streets and yes, it will even help landlords who collect rent,” Myrick said. “So funding our excluded workers is extremely smart and incredibly brave.”
Carlos Gutierrez of the Workers’ Center and president of the local Latino Civic Association also spoke, telling the group gathered about how integral undocumented workers have been to the US economy, despite not receiving fair benefits or protections.
“Every deduction that we get from our paycheck, they get it too, regardless of whether they have Social Security or not,” he said. “I want to pass this legislation without Governor Cuomo vetoing the legislation and have immigrant workers, especially undocumented workers, receive benefits.”
In addition to speaking engagements, lawmakers in conjunction with activists, have held protests and even hunger strikes across New York State. Assemblywoman Kelles, fasted for 24 hours in solidarity with the strikers. Now in the lead-up to the April 1 budget deadline she is calling on constituents to “put pressure” on elected officials, including calling and writing letters to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and New York Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
“The more the public pushes, the greater the likelihood we will be able to stay strong,” Kelles said. “It cannot be just a push from the inside.”