New York worker co-ops launch Covid-19 emergency fund

The fund will be used to help co-ops and colleagues who cannot access government relief

The New York Network for Worker Cooperatives (NYNWC) aims to raise US$150,000 (£120,000) towards a Co-op Emergency Fund for immigrant workers.

While the US government has announced a $2tn (£1.6tn) stimulus package for US citizens and businesses across the country, immigrant worker co-ops, many of which operate in the domestic industry, will not benefit from financial support due to their members’ immigration status.

Essential domestic workers who continue to work, such as carers, are among the most vulnerable frontline workers, while those in non-essential work such as childcare, pet care or residential cleaning have lost their income due to the pandemic.

The new fund will be used to help co-ops who cannot access government relief, with 100% will going to worker-owners. Worker co-ops who are members of NYC NOWC and are not eligible for government relief can fill in an online form to apply for funding from the network.

Over 800 individuals have expressed support for the funding appeal, which has so far raised US$55,222 (£44,256). Those signing up have the option to contribute every month or make a single donation.

In launching the fund, The New York Network of Worker Co-operatives has joined the #ShareMyCheck movement, encouraging those in a relatively stable position to donate all or a portion of their check to people who are not eligible.

Members of worker co-ops attending a training event organised by NYNWC

Andrea Jácome, communications manager at New York Network of Worker Co-operatives, explains that the 70% of NYC worker-owners who are immigrants have been largely excluded from individual relief benefits because of citizenship status.

“The goal of this fund is raise $150,000 so that NYC NOWC can give a one-time relief package of $500 to the 300 immigrant worker-owners in our network who find themselves in both of these interlocking issues,” she said.

The funds will be distributed in a number of rounds until the fundraising goal is hit. The first round of funding will be distributed after May Day.

NYC NOWC is also engaged in emergent advocacy efforts regarding relief funds for excluded workers, securing funding for co-op support organisations so that co-ops can be part of NYC’s economic recovery and rent cancellation.

New York City’s 3.1 million immigrant workers comprise about 37% of the City’s population and 44% of its workforce. They include 360,000 undocumented workers and 48,000 undocumented business owners.

In April New York mayor Bill de Blasio established the New York City Covid-19 Immigrant Emergency Relief program, a $20m (£16m) fund, which will reach 20,000 immigrant workers and their families with direct, one-time emergency relief.

However, NYNWC believes that 718,000 undocumented people could be left out. The amount distributed per individual would be around $1,200.

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