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• Cotton’s tweet refers to a budgetary provision in New York state that would provide aid to immigrants who are in the country illegally, but it leaves a misleading impression about its intent.
• The vast majority of homeless veterans are already citizens who qualify for other federal or state assistance programs, and thus are not the population the Excluded Worker Fund was designed to help.
In April, New York state’s Democratic-led Legislature passed — and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed — a budget that included $2.1 billion for a new Excluded Worker Fund.
The fund would make one-time payments of as much as $15,600 to immigrants in the country illegally who lost work during the coronavirus pandemic.
The idea was to provide aid to New Yorkers whose immigration status prevented them from receiving other forms of aid during the pandemic.
Critics of the program expressed outrage that the state was preparing to hand over thousands of dollars to immigrants who were in the United States illegally.
Some national figures weighed in, such as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who is considered a possible 2024 presidential candidate.
Is Cotton correct that New York homeless veterans do not qualify for this aid? We reached out to Cotton's office and were referred to a website that did not address our question.
Our research suggests that Cotton’s argument is both inaccurate — homeless veterans are not expressly barred under the program — and a misleading restatement of the fund’s intent: It’s meant to help the people who wouldn’t be eligible for the kind of aid most veterans already qualify for.
Excluded Worker Fund benefits are available to New York state residents who have been excluded from unemployment insurance, pandemic-related federal support, and other programs because of their immigration status, said Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the New York State Division of Budget.
They must have earned no more than $26,208 in the prior year and suffered a loss of work-related earnings or household income due the coronavirus pandemic, Klopott said.
The fund doesn’t explicitly bar homeless veterans, as Cotton suggests. If any homeless veterans happen to meet those requirements, they would qualify for these benefits, Klopott said.
As a practical matter, this is probably a small group, even if the number of homeless veterans in New York state is higher than the 1,200 cited by Cotton, since few veterans are likely to be excluded from other aid programs because of their immigration status.
While the U.S. military routinely accepts noncitizen immigrants who are in the country legally — often granting them citizenship after several years of service — it generally does not accept immigrants who are in the country illegally.
An exception is a program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI. The program, created under President George W. Bush and left largely in limbo during the Obama and Trump administrations, allows immigrants in the country illegally who possess certain in-demand skills such as foreign languages or medical training to join the military.
This program is not only dormant but was capped at a few thousand individuals in its early years, making its members a tiny fraction of the overall veteran population.
A broader issue is that Cotton’s tweet garbles the purpose of the program.
Any homeless veterans who are already U.S. citizens or legal residents would have been eligible for the original assistance programs that the Excluded Worker Fund is supposed to be backstopping.
In his tweet, Cotton singled out one sympathetic group — homeless veterans — as being uniquely blocked by this program. But by Cotton’s logic, homeless veterans would also be "ineligible" for corporate tax breaks and countless other provisions of the budget that were not directed at the homeless or veterans in New York.
And by the same token, farmers, math teachers and poets who are U.S. citizens would be "ineligible" for the program, because it’s not meant for them.
"The veteran community has been hit hard during COVID-19 and continues to need help," said James Fitzgerald, deputy director at the NYC Veterans Alliance, told PolitiFact. "Other communities are in need of help as well, including our immigrant community. Our government should focus on helping as many individuals as possible so we can recover from this terrible pandemic."
Cotton said, "New York's 1,200+ homeless veterans are ineligible for these $15,600 payments."
The post mischaracterizes a program that would provide aid to people who were excluded from other aid programs because of their immigration status.
The vast majority of homeless veterans are already U.S. citizens or legal residents, and thus are not the population the Excluded Worker Fund was designed to help.
We rate the statement Mostly False.
Tom Cotton, tweet, April 8, 2021
New York Times, $2.1 Billion for Undocumented Workers Signals New York’s Progressive Shift, April 8, 2021
Email Interview with Freeman Klopott, press officer at the New York State Division of the Budget, May 5, 2021
Email Interview with James Fitzgerald, deputy director at the NYC Veterans Alliance, April 28, 2021
Email Interview with Brian Colas, political director for Tom Cotton, April 26, 2021
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