NYC expands debit card program for migrant families to buy food, baby essentials

NYC is expanding a program providing migrant families with debit cards to buy food and baby essentials. 

7,300 pre-paid cards

Around three months ago, the Adams administration started testing out the program with a small group of families with children staying at city-run shelters. It started at three hotels. About 3,000 people received the cards. Now 7,300 pre-paid cards will be distributed.

In a statement, New York City Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom says the program enables newly arriving families the ability to make choices for themselves and their children by using these cards, stating, "They can buy from local shops, support small businesses, and manage their own resources. When we empower people, we help them achieve self-sufficiency and access the American Dream."

"Its excellent that we could go out and buy fresh food," says migrant mother, Julie Cifuentes.

Cifuentes is a mother of three. She arrived nine months ago and has been staying at the Anchor Inn in Queens, where she says the food is not fresh and many times, she ends up buying food outside. She hopes to obtain one of the cards this time around.

"We don't eat here often because you can tell the food is not fresh," Cifuentes said.

The cards provide families a 28-day allowance to purchase food and baby supplies at stores that sell groceries and convenience items. As of June 16, since its launch, the program has helped 900 families.


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What to know about the cards

According to the city, the cards cost about half as much as what it costs to deliver boxes of food to the families staying at hotels, saving the city so far over $598,000, and it’s projected to save the city approximately $4 million on migrant spending by the end of this year alone.

But not everyone is in favor of this program, saying migrants are living for free at the expense of New York taxpayers.

"We have no obligation to do anything. We have no obligation to house, feed, clothe these individuals, and as we've been saying for almost two years now, the things that the city are doing are creating incentives for these migrants to come here," says Council Member David Carr.