Expanding Inclusion in the Social Safety Net: Impacts of New York’s Excluded Workers Fund

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. 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