New York City Doubles Debit Card Payments For Migrants

    New York City Doubles Debit Card Payments For Migrants

    New York City is expanding its program to provide prepaid debit cards to migrant families staying in hotels to allow them to buy food and essentials.

    It is expected that 7,300 prepaid debit cards will be distributed over the next six months, with a total value of over $2.6 million, according to city officials.

    The city currently hosts more than 60,000 migrants under its care, and the program will expand from three hotels to 17, which could assist 1,230 migrants every month.

    The program has received fierce opposition from Republicans over fears the cards will be misused and that migrants are receiving preferential treatment over New York residents.

    City officials have said the initiative will help to reduce the costs of caring for migrants, over 200,000 of whom have arrived in New York City within the last two years.

    Migrants queue in the cold
    Migrants queue in the cold as they look for a shelter outside a Migrant Assistance Center. A prepaid debit card program for migrants is expanding.

    Andres Kudacki/AP

    In February, Mayor Eric Adams announced that migrants would get $13 per day on a prepaid debit card to buy basic goods.

    The Adams administration started testing the program with a small group of families with children staying at city-run shelters. Initially, after the program launched, it started at three hotels and roughly 3,000 migrants benefited from the initiative.

    New York City Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom described the program as a success because it helps newly arriving families to “make choices for themselves and their children” by using debit cards.

    “They can buy from local shops, support small businesses, and manage their own resources,” she said in a statement. “When we empower people, we help them achieve self-sufficiency and access the American Dream.”

     Mayor Eric Adams delivers remarks
    Mayor Eric Adams at a street co-naming for Dr. James E. Caldwell in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. His program has been criticized by Republicans.


    Joseph Borelli, the Republican minority leader on the City Council, told The New York Times that taxpayers are on “the hook” to pay for the city’s growing migrant population.

    “I appreciate that this is cheaper than a failed system of no-bid contracts, but this is a sign that the migrant crisis is here in perpetuity and the taxpayers are on the hook until the second coming,” he said.

    Migrants using the scheme must sign an affidavit to confirm they will only use the cards for food and baby supplies. Furthermore, the debit cards contain a specific code, which will only function in certain stores.

    New York City is required under state law to provide food to migrants under a right-to-shelter requirement. This has guaranteed housing to New Yorkers for decades.

    The cards are provided to migrants residing in select hotels that are used as emergency shelters under a 28-day voucher program. The program is less expensive than a previous program that delivered meals, which was expected to cost about $5.6 million over the rest of the year.

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