Learning Starts with a Stable Home

The Home Room

by Melissa Melkonian


Learning Starts with a Stable Home:

How New York’s Excluded Worker Fund Can Benefit Bronx Families


Any educator will tell you that family supports, or a lack of them, can have a significant impact on a student’s ability to learn.  In the age of COVID, this problem has become acute for Bronx families, as the pandemic has forced many into lengthy periods of unemployment, decimating their financial condition and putting their core supports—including housing and food—at risk.


Fortunately, the legislature just approved a $2.1 billion to provide financial support to families driven to fiscal peril by the pandemic, but who were not eligible for the financial assistance offered by the federal government.


How does this fund work?  Eligibility is determined through a variety of factors.


First, anyone applying must show they meet the definition of an excluded worker, and they additionally need to show that they did not earn more than $26,800 in the past year.


Workers must verify their identity through documents such as a nonexpired driver’s licenses, a U.S. passports, an IDNYC card, a valid non-U.S. passport, foreign birth certificates, and marriage licenses. The commissioner of the state Department of Labor, which is administering this program, also has the authority to determine and accept other forms of eligibility identification.


In addition to providing identification, anyone applying for funds needs to prove that they currently live in New York and lived in the state prior to March 27, 2020.


The fund is split into two tiers based on the documentation provided to prove work-based eligibility. The top benefit offers up to a $15,600 lump sum payment.  Any worker eligible for the second tier would receive a $3,200 payment.


To access the maximum benefit, applicants must prove they filed a tax return in 2018, 2019 or 2020 using an individual tax identification number. They can also provide a letter from a past employer, six weeks of pay stubs or wage statements from before job loss, a W-2 or 1099 from 2019 or 2020 showing income, or a formal wage notice from an employer.  The program also allows the Department of Labor to create other forms of acceptable documentation, as long as they can prove at least six weeks of employment within six months of becoming eligible for benefits.


If a worker can’t provide any of this documentation, they could still receive support through the second tier.


It is important to note that the program includes penalties for those who make false or fraudulent claims while applying for benefits.  Anyone found to have knowingly included false statements, or who excluded material information pertinent to their eligibility, would be guilty of a class E felony.


While the Department of Labor has not yet established an application process, in the coming weeks anyone wanting more detailed information on how to apply can go to https://dol.ny.gov/excluded-workers-fund.




Melissa Melkonian is Head of School, American Dream Charter School, in the Bronx.

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