A state senator and a policy expert weigh in on how state aid and federal relief affect the policy picture facing New Yorkers and the candidates running for mayor.

Courtesy Make the Road NY

Activists, many of whom had been on a hunger strike for weeks in demanding the state offer relief funds for undocumented workers excluded from federal aid, celebrated the budget deal with a rally in Washington Square Park on Wednesday.

As the 2021-2022 state budget wound toward passage, the spotlight was on the millionaire’s tax, funds for excluded workers and rent relief—all huge issues for a state still reeling from the impact of COVID-19. But as State Sen. Gustavo Rivera discovered as he studied the final draft, there was much more to the $212 billion spending plan than that.

“Last night as I sat at my desk reading—we usually put out a statement, every office does, talking about the things we were able to achieve, et cetera—and I’m looking at the document proofreading it and I had to call my chief of staff in and say to her, ‘We did all this stuff, too?’” he told Wednesday’s Max & Murphy Show on WBAI. “The more I look at it the more I realize how historic a moment this is.”

Combined with the massive infusion of federal relief funds, the state budget could help New York City avoid an eviction crisis, stave off desperation among the undocumented unemployed and help Mayor Bill de Blasio avoid devastating cuts as schools and businesses try to return the five boroughs to something resembling pre-pandemic normalcy.

However, as Emerita Torres, the vice president of policy, research and advocacy at the Community Service Society of New York (a City Limits funder) points out, now government must ably manage the multibillion-dollar programs created by the budget, including a controversial relief program for workers who were unable to tap into federal aid.

“We have to be delicate. We have to be careful. Excluded workers are the least seen but they’re the hardest working and they’re the backbone of our economy,” she said. “The self-application forms are going to be important. It’s important that they be respected. Excluded workers don’t have things like paystubs or paychecks that they’ve received. They’re paid off the books.” That means that photos, text messages and other forms of proof of employment, and termination, might have to count. “It’s going to be critical that we have some flexibility.”

Rivera addressed the role the Cuomo impeachment investigation had on the budget process, and what he expects next on that front. Torres talked about what the “Unheard Third” of New York City voters who live in or near poverty are hoping to hear from mayoral candidates.

Hear our conversations or the full show below:

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera on the state budget and the Cuomo controversies

Emerita Torres on the state budget and the “unheard third”

 Max & Murphy Full Show of April 7, 2021