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Hunger strikers fear $2.1B in NYS aid for excluded workers won’t be enough

Excluded workers trekked to the state’s capital to hold a prayer circle.
Photo courtesy of Make the Road NY

Excluded essential workers had been on a hunger strike for 22 days when they headed up to Albany on April 6 for a last-minute appeal to secure $3.5 billion in relief funds in the New York state budget.

But in the deal struck between Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders Tuesday afternoon, all parties had agreed up on $2.1 billion in relief to undocumented workers who had not previously been eligible for any governmental assistance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the protesters and advocates representing them, however, worry undocumented, immigrant workers would not have the ability to access the funds since they don’t have pay stubs.

Fund Excluded Workers campaign coordinator Bianca Guerrero explained to amNewYork Metro that their demand for $3.5 billion would ensure that the aid excluded workers received was on par with what has been given to other New Yorkers. Additionally, they asked for flexibility on showing proof of employment.

Exhausted excluded workers are seated in wheelchairs as they protest. Photo courtesy of Make the Road NY

“These are workers who have not eaten for 22 days, they need to be working at lightning speed. There is enough money in this state for everyone, including the undocumented workers who are on strike,” Guerrero said during an interview.

The “Fast for the Forgotten” campaign began on March 16 with close to 85 neglected workers, and over the past few weeks, due to severe health concerns, only about 15 strikers remain. With the help of the Fund Excluded Workers campaign, the group has traveled to various parts of New York while their base camp remains just outside of Judson Memorial Church at 55 Washington Square South.

From marches throughout the city streets to protests outside of Governor Cuomo’s Midtown office, these workers have been making their voices heard throughout March and into April while wasting away.

On Tuesday, even as their strength began to wane and many and some were left wheelchair-bound, the band of workers trekked to the state’s capital to hold a prayer circle to raise further awareness for their cause and bring home the requested $3.5 billion.

Workers hold signs exhibiting their cause. Photo courtesy of Make the Road NY 

While their bodies are fading with exhaustion, Guerrero says the hunger strikers’ spirits remain high and are determined to keep starving until their demands are met.

According to the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition, “The funding is intended to provide direct financial relief for hundreds of thousands of workers across the state who have been left out of state and federal relief programs, including the latest federal stimulus, because of their immigration status, line of work, or because they were recently released from incarceration.”

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