NYC Expands Pre-Paid Debit Card Program For Migrants, Faces Backlash

New York City is set to expand its pre-paid debit card program for migrant families residing in taxpayer-funded hotels. Mayor Eric Adams’s administration plans to distribute these cards to over 7,300 migrants over the next six months, at an estimated cost of $2.6 million. This expansion follows an earlier pilot program that provided cards to about 3,000 migrants.

Mayor Adams defended the initiative as a “cost savings measure,” arguing that it temporarily replaces the current system of distributing non-perishable food boxes to migrant families. The program is a joint effort between the Adams administration and Mobility Capital Finance.

Reports indicate that a family of four with children under five can receive up to $350 per week, totaling approximately $18,200 annually. However, the program has drawn criticism from various quarters, including New York Council member Joseph Borelli, who described the debit card initiative as “fundamentally unfair” to the city’s working poor, who do not receive similar benefits. Borelli and other Republicans argue that the city’s “right to shelter” law and its ‘sanctuary’ policies are attracting a record number of migrants to New York.

Conservative lawmakers also highlight the disparity between the $350 weekly allowance provided to migrants and the average monthly $291 received by low-income, elderly, and disabled U.S. citizens through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Over the past year, more than 183,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City amid a surge in illegal immigration under President Joe Biden’s administration. The city is reportedly on track to spend $10 billion on migrant-related expenses.

New York City has also been spending vast sums on meals for migrants each month, with reports indicating that thousands of meals end up being discarded. Critics argue that these resources could be better allocated to support the city’s own low-income residents.

As the debate over the pre-paid debit card program continues, the city faces the challenge of balancing its commitment to providing for migrants with the concerns of its existing residents. The expansion of this program is likely to remain a contentious issue as New York City navigates its responsibilities and priorities.

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