Outer Boroughs Left Out

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Employees of Manhattan-based companies who lost their jobs in the wake of September 11 may soon be in for a little more financial assistance, but those who lost work in the outer boroughs are out of luck.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer proposed extending mortgage and rental assistance to laid-off employees of companies based anywhere in Manhattan, or to workers who earned at least 75 percent of their income by doing business with companies in Manhattan. (Up to now, government aid to save people from eviction and foreclosure has been limited to those who worked south of Houston Street.)

With 18,000 to 20,000 jobs lost in Queens alone after the Trade Center attacks, however, some advocates for immigrants and poor New Yorkers say too many people are still being left out. “For the government to restrict people by a random geographic boundary is ridiculous,” said Benjamin Ross of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Now, while the bill is still on the table, the Coalition, the Legal Aid Society and the Urban Justice Center have asked Schumer and other legislators to push to extend mortgage and rental assistance to all 15 counties–including the five boroughs–that the federal government designated as disaster areas.

So far, the word from Schumer has not been encouraging. According to Ross, Schumer’s staff has said that expanding the parameters of the bill is not feasible, particularly since President Bush’s staff has already spoken out against the current proposal. Calls to the senator’s office were not returned by press time.

Schumer’s initiative is part of a $31 billion emergency spending bill, which also includes funding for health screenings for ground zero rescue workers and volunteers.