Immigrant Workers Launch Hunger Strike For Full Funding Of Bill That Would Bring COVID-19 Financial Aid To New Yorkers Excluded From All Relief

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Local Groups Participate in “Fast for the Forgotten” to Demand $3.5 Billion Fund To Provide Cash Assistance to Immigrant New York Families Excluded From All Federal COVID Relief Efforts

WHITE PLAINS, NY —March 18, 2021 —  Immigrants workers and advocates launched a hunger strike in White Plains today to pressure State leaders to support legislation to establish a fund for excluded workers in the New York State budget as the deadline approaches.

Excluded workers were joined by faith and community leaders as well as elected officials at White Plains Presbyterian Church to announce their participation in the “Fast for the Forgotten,” named in honor of the hundreds of thousands of immigrant New Yorkers who have been left behind throughout the pandemic with no access to unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, and other federal and state economic relief programs.

The State Senate and Assembly must invest $3.5 billion for excluded workers, anything less will handicap New York’s health and economic recovery.

The White Plains action is one of many across New York, where excluded workers began fasting to pressure Albany to pass bill S4543/A5421, sponsored by Senator Ramos and Assembly Member De La Rosa, that would set up the $3.5 billion fund to provide retroactive, direct cash assistance to workers who haven’t been able to access unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, or other government assistance.

“Every New York family deserves a chance at recovery from this pandemic, but for half a million New York households, help isn’t coming fast enough. One year after New York State shut down all but essential activity, undocumented New Yorkers on the frontlines of this pandemic are still struggling to pay their bills and feed their families. It’s long past time for New York State to reverse the injustice of every federal stimulus relief package, which excluded these New Yorkers from all social safety nets just because of their immigration status,” said Murad Awawdeh, Interim Co-Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “In this time of crisis, the state legislature must remember the families who have been here for us in our time of need, and step up to ensure that New York State can get on the road to economic recovery by prioritizing the well-being of every New York family and supporting the passage of the Excluded Worker Fund.

This hunger strike is about power to the people. It’s about worker families and allies putting their lives on the line because collectively we cannot wait any longer–we need an economic relief fund that’s realistic for essential workers. The Community Resource Center  has been actively supporting the Essential and Excluded Workers Campaign. We have participated in marches and have been a vocal proponents of ongoing advocacy initiatives. Community-based organizations like ours have stepped up and supported immigrant and  low-income families during this crisis through our Emergency Assistance and Eviction Prevention Funds.  We are now demanding our state legislators to do the same as the impact of the pandemic has long-lasting implications for working families,” Jirandy Martinez, Community Resource Center Executive Director.

“Immigrant essential workers have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic for the past year and have been among those hardest hit both medically and economically.  Despite this, many essential workers continue to be excluded from government relief due to their immigration status. We are grateful for the support the Fund for Excluded Workers has received so far, but we need more. Essential and excluded workers need to be heard, they are putting themselves at risk by holding a hunger strike. It is past time to create a Fund for Excluded Workers,” said Luisa Granda-Rodriguez, Director of Operations and Community Development.

Yonkers Sanctuary Movement members have suffered without government relief during this long pandemic year. Our community is not only going hungry and getting severely sick from COVID at higher rates than other New Yorkers, but they are continuing to be ripped apart from beloved family members and friends through deportation. We need to fund excluded workers now!” said Diana Sanchez with Yonkers Sanctuary Movement.

“Immigrant day laborers in Westchester, along with undocumented workers from across the state, haven’t stopped working or fighting for equitable COVID relief during this entire pandemic. New York State must end its shameful exclusion of its own workers, establish this fund at a level equivalent to basic unemployment insurance, and with that action, send a clear message to those who seek to deny workers not only financial aid, but their very humanity,” said Nadia Marin-Molina, Co-Executive Director, National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

“For the past year, hundreds of thousands of Black, brown, and immigrant New Yorkers haven’t received a dime of support even as they’ve lost jobs and income just like millions of other New Yorkers. Working people in the Hudson Valley and all across New York are struggling to pay the rent and lining up at food pantries just to be able to feed their families. The state legislature took a welcomed first step by allocating $2.1 billion in funding for excluded workers, but it’s not enough. We’re fasting today in solidarity with working people who are asking for the same level of economic relief available to everyone else. The state legislature must step up, listen to workers, and pass the $3.5 billion in funding that excluded workers have been demanding,” said Jennifer Hernández, Lead Organizer, Make the Road NY.

“We have seen the harm that this pandemic has done; it has taken family members and friends and has changed lives forever. However, those people who are the most in need have been impacted the most. We are wrong if we say to people who have given the most of themselves, that they cannot receive the assistance that so many others have relied on during this pandemic. I am proud to stand and fight with those in our society who need, because we can and must do better,” said Westchester County Legislator Christopher Johnson.

“Covid-19 has affected us all and it is only fair that we come together to help everyone,” said Westchester County Legislator Jose Alvarado.

“Today I join with my colleagues at the County and State level in solidarity and support of our excluded workers. Our communities of color have been particularly hard hit by the economic disaster resulting from the pandemic. I laud the State’s effort in providing a fund for those workers so affected but would urge them to provide relief equivalent to that of current unemployment benefits. Not only will this be good for the economy in the long run, it will help stave off homelessness and keep our kids healthy and in school. And lastly, it is the right thing to do” said Westchester County Legislator Colin Smith.

“This pandemic has affected everyone in a negative way, especially caused by hardship financially. We must do our best to continue to help all residents, which in turn helps all people,” said Westchester County Legislator David Tubiolo.

“It is a year into the pandemic that has rocked the world and we have seen that in times of great distress, the government can play a major role in helping people keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.  But there are significant numbers of workers who are not eligible for unemployment benefits, despite the fact that they have worked hard and paid taxes.  These excluded workers deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else who has lost their income due to the pandemic so that they can support themselves and their families. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is a far better solution than allowing these families to become hungry and homeless,” said Westchester County Legislator Nancy Barr.

Our economy depends greatly on our immigrant community. It is imperative that we support these families and provide them with the financial resources they need to survive these difficult times. Failing to do so is a human rights violation.. families are being forced to choose between eating, paying for housing, or working through illnesses. We can’t continue to exclude any of our essential workers. They are valuable and must be protected!” said Yonkers City Majority Leader Corazon Pineda.

“We are in the frontlines of being the change.

This  is time for our voices to be listening

This is time to value Essential Workers

This is time to create a fund for all immigrants workers

This is time to get more justice and equitable word,” said Janet Hernández, Obreros Unidos, Catholic Charities

“How easily do we forget that the success of our economy is reliant on the blood, sweat and hard work of our immigrant communities. Status or not, their labor is no less then the labor of any other worker, and they are just as deserving of equal relief. For the past year during a global pandemic, the rich have gotten richer while the poor continue to sink into dire financial hardship. It is New York State’s responsibility to step up, act fast and fund a program that equally matches the unemployment benefits granted to every other worker in New York so that all families across the state have the opportunity to recover and weather this pandemic,” said Peekskill City Councilperson Vanessa Agudelo.

If passed, the bill would provide flat rate monthly cash payments directly to families who have lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic. It will operate similarly to unemployment insurance and will be retroactive from March 27, 2020 and continue through the end of the pandemic.

The strikers were blessed by faith leaders in a “Ceremony of Excluded Indigenous” as they launched their fasts, which will be done in three-day increments. The strikers are prepared to fast until the end of the month, concinding with the state budget deadline.

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Hunger strike livestream video can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=149853283673811

Photography attached is by Andrew Courtney. Please contact us for more video/photo footage or for opportunities to interview strikers throughout the next 2 weeks of our strike.

Sponsor Organizations:

Community Resource Center

United Community Center

Obreros Unidos

Neighbors Link

Yonkers Sanctuary Movement

Don Bosco Center

Westchester Labor Alliance

New York Immigration Coalition

National Day Laborer Organizing Network

Make The Road NY

 

TribuneImmigrant Workers Launch Hunger Strike For Full Funding Of Bill That Would Bring COVID-19 Financial Aid To New Yorkers Excluded From All Relief

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