Half of NYC’s Immigrants are Unemployed Because of the Pandemic, Report Finds

Originally published on 06/21/2020 by Claudia Irizarry Aponte and Christine Chung for thecity.ny

Half of New York’s working-class immigrants have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study by the Center for Urban Future found.

The sudden loss of income has made it difficult for many immigrants to get relief, since they may be ineligible for most public benefits because of their citizenship status.

That means that food stamps, rent subsidies, cash assistance, unemployment insurance and stimulus checks are out of reach for most of New York’s estimated 350,000 undocumented workers and their families in the event they lose work.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has laid bare existing struggles with language and technology access for the city’s immigrants, which created barriers in access to care such as telemedicine and crisis hotlines, the study found. Those issues extend to families who have undertaken remote learning for their children, the report notes.

For undocumented immigrants, the city’s lowest earners despite high participation in the labor force, unemployment can be uniquely devastating, extending to tolls on physical and mental health, the study found.


As THE CITY has previously reported, blue-collar immigrants — many of whom work in industries deemed essential — have borne much of the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Job losses, business closures, food insecurity, remote learning, and the trauma associated with losing family or community members to COVID-19 — or getting sick themselves — is weighing down the mental health of immigrant communities, the study found.

“Apartment overcrowding, prevalent in many immigrant communities, leads to increased risk of coronavirus transmission and can add to the mental and physical toll of sheltering in place,” according to the study. “Several organizations mentioned that immigrant clients are struggling to access testing and in some cases treatment for COVID-19.”


Some providers surveyed for the study that offer mental health counseling and preventive care have transitioned to remote consultations.

Demand for mental health services has more than doubled in Sunset Park’s Academy of Mental and Public Health Services, which serves the neighborhood’s Latino and Chinese communities, according to executive director Mon Yuck Yu.

“What we’re seeing is that the struggles are multi-fold,” she said. “From a mental health perspective in particular, we’ve seen a lot of clients who have really experienced loss, and loss comes in many different ways: maybe it’s the loss of a family member, loss of a job, or simply loss of a sense of security.”


To stave off the impact of job loss for the community, the Center for Urban Future proposes creating a state or city-funded emergency cash assistance program for undocumented people left out of federally provided relief. It’s an idea that advocates for undocumented immigrants have pushed for in the state and city legislatures since the start of the pandemic.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer proposed a similar concept in April, which would use funds provided by private entities or partners.

Neither the state or the city has acted yet on either proposal.

“When you think of how important immigrants have been to the city’s economy over the last few decades it’s, you know, this is the time when they need help the most,” Bowles said. “And it feels like the city’s turning its back on them.”

Likewise, to circumvent federal restrictions, the Center also is calling for using state or city funds to provide paid sick leave, child care and additional protective equipment for the city’s immigrant essential workers, who make up one-fifth of that workforce, according to a recent analysis by the comptroller’s office.

For the full story and more NYC orientated immigration news please check the following link- https://www.thecity.nyc/2020/6/21/21298436/half-of-nyc-immigrants-unemployed-because-of-pandemic

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