Expanding Inclusion in the Social Safety

  • April 5, 2023
  • Immigration Research Initiative
  • Elaine Waxman, Hamutal Bernstein, David Dyssegaard Kallick, Poonam Gupta, Paola Echave, Julio Salas, Luis Gallardo and Ashleigh-Ann Sutherland

Response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recession spurred a wave of policy innovation
around the country. The pandemic revealed weak spots in our social safety net, and
governments scrambled to fix them—at least temporarily. Although federal efforts
typically tried to carve out undocumented immigrants (Smith et al. 2020), many states
and localities around the country made a particular effort to include immigrants and
others who were excluded.
1 New York’s Excluded Worker Fund (EWF) was by far the
largest of these efforts. The New York fund was a $2.1 billion program that allowed
130,000 immigrants without work authorization, as well as some others who fell
between the gaps of federal aid, to get unemployment compensation if they lost work
during the pandemic recession. The amount of aid to the vast majority of workers,
$15,600, was nearly as much as the annual amount other New Yorkers who lost work
were getting in unemployment insurance.