Impact of NY’s Excluded Worker Fund – in 6 Languages

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Although expanded unemployment insurance played a large role in decreasing the number of people living in poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic, millions—most notably undocumented workers—were excluded from these benefits. The New York State Excluded Workers Fund (EWF) is the most notable example of legislation to address this gap. Passed in April 2021, the EWF approved 130,000 excluded workers to receive financial support that roughly equaled the average total amount unemployed workers eligible for unemployment compensation received, approximately $15,600 per person. To understand the experiences of workers who applied for EWF and of those that did not receive benefits from the fund, we conducted 15 interviews with workers in English, Spanish, Bangla, and Korean and 9 interviews with staff from community-based organizations serving various populations in New York and providing crucial application assistance.

We found that those who received the fund used it to make ends meet during a period of severe job loss by

  • paying back rent and other bills;
  • repaying debt incurred during the pandemic;
  • stabilizing or improving their housing conditions;
  • paying for basic needs like food;
  • investing in their children and education;
  • taking care of their health and paying for medical expenses;
  • expanding employment opportunities; and
  • increasing excluded workers’ sense of dignity

We found that workers who applied but did not receive the fund because of difficulties providing the required documentation faced

  • continuing stress around unstable income;
  • debt burden; and
  • other dire circumstances.

The New York State Department of Labor quickly and effectively adopted the EWF, but ultimately, the fund ran out of money more quickly than anticipated. Although the fund was a high-impact intervention for those who benefitted, it has not provided solutions to the ongoing instability that accompanies a lack of lawful permanent status in the US.


  • David Dyssegaard Kallick

    Kallick is director of Immigration Research Initiative, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that looks at immigration issues.

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  • Luis Gallardo

    Luis Hassan Gallardo is a research assistant in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute. His past research focused on United States immigration policy and the barriers vulnerable populations face in accessing health and welfare services. Gallardo graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with degrees in political science and ethnic studies.

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  • Elaine Waxman

    Elaine Waxman is a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Her expertise includes food insecurity, nutrition, and the US safety net, as well as broader issues affecting families and communities with low incomes. She received her MPP and PhD from the University of Chicago, where she is currently a lecturer at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.

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  • Poonam Gupta

    Poonam Gupta is a research analyst in the Income and Benefits Policy Center, where she focuses on social safety net policy. She works on several projects related to federal nutrition programs and food insecurity. Gupta holds BAs in public health and Spanish from the Johns Hopkins University and an MSPH in international health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

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  • Paola Echave

    Paola Echave is a research associate in the Income and Benefits Policy Center. Her areas of expertise include immigration and health. Her research focuses on the role of immigration enforcement on the health, economic, and social well-being of Latinx and immigrant communities. She has extensive training in quantitative and qualitative methods and experience with large-scale social science and demographic surveys. She is currently the project manager of the Annual Survey of Refugees for the US Department of Health and Human Services. Before joining Urban, Echave worked as a research assistant at the Ohio State University, where she conducted research and published work on the role of obesity on the risk of mortality and trends in specific health outcomes in the US. Echave holds a BA in criminology from the University of New Mexico and master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology from the Ohio State University.

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  • Julio Salas

    Julio Salas is a research intern in the Income and Benefits Policy Center. Julio is also a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Public Policy fellow and was a recent legislative health fellow at the US House of Representatives, where he led a health portfolio. Julio graduated from Cornell University and Queensborough Community College with degrees in human development and health sciences.

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  • Hamutal Bernstein

    Hamutal Bernstein is a principal research associate in the Income and Benefits Policy Center, where she leads Urban’s program on immigrants and immigration. Her research focuses on the well-being and integration of immigrant and refugee families and workers. Her areas of expertise include immigration and integration, workforce development and training, and human services. Before joining Urban, Bernstein was a program officer at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and research associate at the Georgetown University Institute for the Study of International Migration. Bernstein received her BA in international relations from Brown University and her PhD in government from Georgetown University.

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