Migrant crisis | Adams rebukes feds’ reported claim his admin hasn’t ‘stepped up to plate’ in collecting aid

Mayor Eric Adams speaks at roundtable
Mayor Eric Adams speaks at a roundtable discussion at City Hall on March 4, 2024.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Eric Adams bristled Tuesday at comments by a federal official that his administration has not “stepped up to the plate” in claiming the full $156 million in reimbursements for migrant crisis spending which Congress allocated to the city last year.

The remarks came from an unnamed official in President Biden’s administration who was quoted in the New York Daily News on Monday after the mayor’s budget chief, Jacques Jiha, had revealed the city has only so far received $49 million of the $156 million set aside for the Big Apple.

Jiha, who was speaking during a City Council budget hearing, said the requirements for applying for the reimbursements are so “stringent” that it makes unlocking the funds incredibly difficult.

Adams, during his March 5 off-topic press conference at City Hall, responded that it is actually the federal government who has not stepped up to the plate. He said that is because it has only earmarked $156 million for the city — a drop in the bucket compared to the more than $4 billion his administration has already spent on providing for tens of thousands of migrants.

Adams charged the feds are criticizing his administration’s handling of the reimbursements to distract from the reality that they have not given the city far more financial assistance for dealing with the influx, while declining to actually say what makes applying for the money so difficult.

“The best way to take people’s minds off of the real issue is that you use some form of sleight of hand,” Adams told reporters. “So even if we had gotten the whole $150 million, we have a $4 billion price tag.”

A White House spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment on the mayor’s remarks.

‘Every penny we can get’

Migrants wait for services
Migrants wait on line at an East Village application center in January 2024.File photo/Dean Moses

Adams and his top aides insisted the administration has met “all applicable timelines” for submitting the requisite documents to unlock the funds.

“Every penny we can get we have been going after,” the mayor said.

Ingrid Lewis-Martin, the mayor’s chief adviser, also denied claims by the federal official whom the Daily News spoke to that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had sent a team to the city just last week to help the Adams administration complete the documentation. Lewis-Martin also implored the Biden administration to provide the city with more resources and assistance to file the applications.

“If they feel that we are doing something incorrectly, since they are the federal government, it would behoove them to say ‘listen, you guys are doing a great job, you don’t understand this, let’s work together as a team and let’s get it done,’” Lewis-Martin said.

Much of the $156 million allocation was awarded to the city last spring with the help of US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both Democrats from Brooklyn. New York was awarded the most out of any municipality from an $800 million pot included in an omnibus federal spending bill passed by Congress in late 2022 to help cities that have received the bulk of newly arrived migrants.

To date, roughly 180,000 migrants have come through the city’s shelter intake system and around 64,000 are still in its care.

Adams asked if the Biden administration has done enough, while naming a list of reforms his administration has been pleading for over the past year.

“Have you guys stepped up to the plate in helping with this $4 billion, secured the border, allowing people to have work authorization, make sure we have a real decompression strategy?” he said. “Ask them have they stepped up to the plate. New Yorkers have stepped up to the plate.”