Immigrants, including those undocumented, are one of the groups hardest-hit by Covid-19.

They have been left out of nearly all city, state and federal relief provisions including CARES Act, the unprecedented $2.2 trillion Federal aid package.

“Some of the neighborhoods that are hardest hit by Covid-19 are neighborhoods where there are a lot of service workers, immigrants and people of color,” said Karen Narefsky, who convenes the United for Small Business NYC Coalition.

Of the approximately 1.2 million city residents whose jobs will have vanished between mid-March and the end of April, roughly one in six – some 192,000 men and women – are undocumented immigrants, according to a study published by the The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs

The Center wrote a letter to Mayor de Blasio on April 16 requesting aid for undocumented workers and business owners: “We really think it’s important that the burden of this crisis isn’t being placed on the people who are least able to bear it, those who are at the bottom of the economic chain,” said Narefsky.

Undocumented immigrants, including those who are street vendors, do file for taxes using their ITIN numbers. “We are seeing that folks who are taxpayers, who may be undocumented are not receiving any sort of aid, or eligible for unemployment assistance,” Narefsky added.

The study approximates that 73,000 or so undocumented workers have been or will be displaced from their jobs elsewhere in New York State.

“We are advocating for NYC to create a fund for immigrant-owned small businesses that does not include any reporting of immigration status,” said Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez, deputy director of the Street Vendor Project, among the many community organizations calling for Mayor de Blasio to respond.

According to Kaufman-Guiterrez, the business model of street vendors is mostly informal and cash-based, thus making it difficult for them to have the necessary paperwork required to apply for state and federal loans.

Calling the process “incredibly exclusionary,” Kaufman-Gutierrez explains how “difficult it is for folks to have the amount of paperwork to apply including previous tax returns especially for cash-economy businesses.”

Social-security is not the only thing standing between undocumented immigrants and relief packages as language and technology are also additional barriers. “A lot of the information is not only online, but primarily in English and so, that has been a big barrier for folks who are applying if they don’t have access to technology, and have to fill out applications in English,” said Kaufman-Guitterez.

As the City Council convened virtually two weeks ago, ANHD, Street Vendor Project and other community organizations are looking forward to engaging with elected officials around those caught in the cross-hairs of this crisis.

“We don’t want to come out of this two years from now to find out every business in chained, and every storefront has been brought up by multi-national landlords, and the sort of relationships and cultural goods and services are not there,” said Narefsky.

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Gia Ramesh

Striving to tell stories that matter. Previously @GothamGazette @Bold

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