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Workers march to Albany to demand replenishment of Excluded Worker Fund

Jennifer Connor-Justice for Migrant Families
JFMF members rally outside of Gov. Kathy Hochul's economic development speech in Buffalo last week.

Workers left out of pandemic-related unemployment benefits are marching from New York City to Albany to call for a $3 billion replenishment of the Excluded Workers Fund and the creation of a permanent unemployment insurance program.

Last year approximately 120,000 applicants received $2.1 billion in state resources through the E.W.F. But the fund quickly ran out, leaving people who work in occupations not eligible for unemployment or stimulus payments due to their undocumented status, high and dry.

The Immigration Research Initiative released a report detailing the benefits of the E.W.F. but Immigration Research Initiative Director David Dyssegaard Kallick said the state has an opportunity to provide a safety net for workers who may have fallen through the cracks.

“There needs to be a replenishment to be able to make it reach everybody was supposed to," he said. "And as our report came out today you know the people who got it, it was a tremendous help really help change their lives help them through a tough time.”

Jennifer Connor-Justice For Migrant Families
E.W.F. supporter holds a sign outside of Seneca One Tower where Gov. Kathy Hochul was on hand to deliver a economic development address.

In Western New York immigrants have felt the brunt of the exclusion said Justice For Migrant Families Executive Director Jennifer Connor. A majority of the approved applications went to downstate residents and Connor said local politicians were quiet when it came to promoting the fund.

“I think that for Western New York, it is so important to recognize that anytime our politicians choose to not fight for a what is a smaller group of people but is a significant group of people in our Western New York community," she said. "We all lose out. And when we fight for all of the members of our community, it benefits all of us.”

Connor said this is an issue of worker wellbeing.

“Generally, when workers have a safety net, it creates working conditions across the board," she said. "In a workplace. There are people who all have a safety net versus a situation where workers can be divided. So I think Western New York has an opportunity for worker solidarity here.”

The march is expected to reach Albany on Wednesday.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.