Another week, another migrant-mismanagement bombshell: Gov. Hochul and Mayor Adams have been quietly handing out cash to thousands of migrants for nine months.
The governor and mayor have learned nothing from the mess they’ve made.
The federal government, which funds most cash-welfare benefits, prohibits “asylum seekers” from collecting such benefits, which pay $336 for a mother with two children and $252 for two adults (along with even more in shelter and energy subsidies).
But New York has its own state- and local-funded parallel “safety net assistance” program for those not eligible for federal welfare: people who have exceeded the federal five-year welfare time limit and singles without children.
Hochul stealthily expanded this program to include “applicants for asylum” and “applicants for temporary protected status.”
The governor did this, a social-services spokesman told The Post’s Rich Calder, “at the request of New York City.”
How many migrants are receiving these benefits?
Hochul won’t say, with the spokesman estimating only 10% of new arrivals will collect.
That would be about 17,000.
But there are ways to guess.
The governor’s updated state budget allocates $26 million for this new cost for the current fiscal year, up from zero the year before.
For the fiscal year starting April 1, the proposed state-taxpayer cost is $67 million.
The expanded eligibility will “result in more households becoming eligible for Safety Net Assistance and increase state costs,” the budget warns.
The state pays only 29% of normal “safety net assistance” costs, though; the city pays the other 71%.
That means the “asylum seeker” benefits’ full cost for the upcoming fiscal year is $231 million, with $164 million paid by the city — and likely to rise.
This is a major increase.
In January 2023, before the city had requested these changes, it planned to spend $891 million of its own money (not federal or state) on “public assistance” grants in this fiscal year, not much more than the $850 million budgeted annually before the pandemic.
Turns out the real amount this year is $974 million.
The city expects it to fall to $875 million in the upcoming fiscal year — but how and why?
As of December, there were 358,000 city recipients in the nonfederal “safety net assistance” program, up from 314,000 a year earlier.
It had already risen from 217,000 pre-pandemic, but the increase had been abating.
How many of the new recipients are “asylum seekers”?
Is Gotham encouraging people to apply for these benefits, as the city helps them with their asylum applications, or discouraging it?
We have no idea.
You’ll read some generic narratives about “public assistance” costs in budget reports but nothing about how much of that is migrants.
The mayor didn’t mention it in his budget speech.
(Nor can you arrive at the number of recipients by simply dividing the expected annual budget by the average annual benefit per recipient, as safety-net assistance typically comes with those noncash shelter and utility stipends, and it’s not clear if the state is offering those to the city to defray shelter costs.)
Has Hochul learned nothing from two years of the migrant crisis?
A unique benefit — California doesn’t offer “asylum seekers” welfare — will attract more people, as the city’s unique “right to shelter” has demonstrated.
But at least the right to shelter existed before this crisis.
And just like with the “right to shelter,” the state and city have no exit strategy.
Normally, beneficiaries can receive two years of “safety net assistance” cash; after that, it converts into a grant directly to a landlord or utility provider.
The normal goal for people on that assistance is to get a full-time job — and yes, people who have formally applied for asylum can legally work after six months.
But with the number of migrants in city shelter expected to rise from about 70,000 to 90,000 later this year and remain there indefinitely, the state has effectively created a new, permanent rolling welfare benefit for newcomers, assuming most “asylum seekers” do find on-the-books work quickly.
The most startling thing about all this is the lack of transparency.
If New York state and city are proud of the aid they’re offering “asylum seekers,” why haven’t Hochul and Adams said, “Just like we’re offering shelter to the world, we’re proud to offer cash benefits.”
They must have understood what the public reaction would be.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.