ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — During the pandemic, excluded workers got the financial help they needed through the Excluded Workers Fund, but that assistance has since ended. Now, workers all across the state are pushing for the Unemployment Bridge Program, which would provide permanent compensation to workers who are ineligible for unemployment insurance. Advocates are asking for a $500 million revolving fund for the program. This would help workers who are self-employed, undocumented, freelancers, and more.

“There were such an understanding throughout the pandemic of … a lack of social safety net for so many, hundreds of thousands of workers, who are paying into the system, who are paying their taxes, but in moments of crisis, were unable to have any sort of social safety net, and so we’re looking beyond crisis right, we’re looking for a permanent alternative,” said Carina Gutierrez, Deputy Director at The Street Vendor Project. Gutierrez said under the program workers would receive monthly payments for six months, similar to unemployment insurance, “You know it’s not a full salary but it’s enough to help keep people on their feet.”

Key sponsor of the bill, Senator Jessica Ramos said her last legislation was a huge success and hopes this one will be too. “We worked very closely with the Department of Labor and the Comptroller‘s Office to make sure that there were controls in place in order to ensure an effective program and unfortunately … or fortunately the $2.1 billion was gone within weeks because the need was so big,” she said. Which is why she’s seeking a more permanent solution, “So that these taxpayers aren’t being left behind or denied relief that other types of workers are given,” said Senator Ramos. Advocates are hoping the Governor will include the program in the state budget.