As part of a combined effort to reduce costs while also improving the quality of life for migrants, the city’s distribution of prepaid debit cards to hundreds of new arrivals could be imminent, according to published reports.

The debit cards could be given out to new arrivals at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown as early as this week.

What You Need To Know

  • A city spokesperson could not confirm the launch date but published reports say the distribution of prepaid debit cards to newly arrived migrants could start this week
  • The pilot program would begin with approximately 500 families at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown
  • The cards are to be used for food and baby supplies, so the city can save on boxed food costs

A spokesperson for City Hall told NY1 that, while she couldn’t confirm an actual start date, she said when the program does launch, the card would cover a period of 28 days and would provide funds of just over $12 per person per day.

The city said one of the goals of the program, which is expected to save the city about $600,000 a month, is to provide migrants with the option of shopping for their own food. The city noticed a high volume of food provided in boxes to the migrants is being thrown away.

“I think it’s kind of ridiculous,” said Elizabeth Azadi of Midtown, who lives a block from the Roosevelt Hotel. “I think the city needs to be taking care of their own citizens before they start taking care of others that are illegal essentially. They don’t have their paperwork.”

Azadi admits while she isn’t fully aware of the debit card program, she believes the city should be allocating more of its financial resources to struggling New Yorkers.

“I’ve lived in the city 10 years now, especially after COVID,” she said. “The homelessness and poverty has just gone up, and it’s such a huge issue that I feel like the billions that we’re spending on bringing migrants in, we could be spending on our own [people], on our own city and helping the people who are truly neglected.”

The city said the debit cards for new arrivals can only be used at supermarkets, bodegas and at grocery stores, with migrants being required to sign an affidavit that it would only be used for food and baby supplies.

The city said if the card is used for alcohol, cigarettes or other items that are not approved, they face the strong possibility of being kicked out of the program.