Image Credit: New York Times

Migrant Debit Card Program to expand

Migrant families will be seeing more of the New York City debit card program thanks to its recent expansion, according to The New York Times (NYT). 

The controversial program faced consistent backlash from mainly Republican opponents for providing what many argued was ‘free money to migrants’. New York City Mayor Eric Adams and his team quickly dismissed these claims in a press conference in March, reiterating that the cards were prepaid. He also emphasized the plot program’s effort to prevent any possible fraud that may occur. 

“There is no free money. These are not ATM cards. You can’t take cash out,” said Deputy Mayor Fabien Levy.

Initially introduced in February, the program was aimed to provide financial assistance to a select group of around 3,000 migrant families staying in hotels through prepaid debit cards for essentials such as food, toiletries, clothing, and baby supplies.

The original pilot program tested out debit cards that had “digital coding”, making them usable in select stores. The amount of money issued to migrants varied depending on family size and number of children. For reference, the NYT notes that a family of four with young children could be issued $350 a month.

Initially, three hotels, primarily located in Lower Manhattan, had partnered with the program, but since February, it has expanded to include 17 hotels and counting.

Efforts to support migrant families in NYC have been made possible in collaboration with Mobility Capital Finance (MCF). Before the MCF partnership, NYC had been working with DocGo under a $432 million contract. Unfortunately, allegations in April claiming that the firm provided migrants false paperwork caused the contract to fall through.

According to the NYT, the program will expand to around 7,300 migrant families over the next six months, resulting in costs of around $2.6 million.

Within the past two years, New York City has welcomed more than 200,000 migrants bussed from the border. This surge in population has caused the city council to make numerous budget cuts. Fortunately, the improved program has proven to be more cost-effective than the one proposed in February, which would have cost around $5.6 million.

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