The coalition of advocates that has been pushing for the creation of an excluded workers fund blasted state lawmakers on Thursday for the lack of a budget agreement in New York that could direct $3.5 billion to workers who did not receive federal unemployment aid because of factors like immigration status.

Activists are pushing for the fund as part of the budget, which was due to pass this week, which would benefit undocumented workers who were not eligible for unemployment or the several rounds of stimulus payments and bolstered unemployment aid approved by Congress over the last year.

“Last night, Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers forced dozens of excluded workers to extend their hunger strike — and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to continue to suffer without relief — after failing to pass the state’s budget on time," said Bianca Guerrero, a coordinator for the coalition.

Unemployment has skyrocketed during the initial weeks of the pandemic, and an estimated 2 million jobs were lost in New York. The economy has recovered on a limited basis and New York's unemployment rate remains higher than the naitonal average.

Many of the jobs affected are in the hospitality and leisure industries, and are often low-wage positions.

Excluded workers advocates have staged a hunger strike over the issue, meanwhile, as Democratic lawmakers in both chambers have included elements of the proposed fund in their budget resolutions.

"For 17 days, workers have been fasting for a $3.5 billion fund in the state’s budget that would finally provide workers with economic relief after a year of being denied any federal or state aid," Guerrero said. "Every day that passes without a decision on the budget is another day that puts the safety of workers on hunger strike and the economic security of hundreds of thousands of excluded workers further in jeopardy."