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New York City to give migrants prepaid debit cards

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(The Center Square) — New York City will provide migrants with $53 million worth of prepaid debit cards under a controversial new program that critics say will draw more asylum seekers to the city at the taxpayers’ expense.

The program, which will offer up to $1,000 a month for about 500 migrant families, is a partnership between Mayor Eric Adams and the company Mobility Capital Finance, which says the plan will help migrants with food, baby supplies and other necessities as they await authorization to work from the federal government.

The Adams administration described the pilot program as a “cost savings measure” that would temporarily replace New York City’s existing system of providing non-perishable food boxes to migrant families staying in hotels and other city-funded shelters.

“Not only will this provide families with the ability to purchase fresh food for their culturally relevant diets and the baby supplies of their choosing, but the pilot program is expected to save New York City more than $600,000 per month, or more than $7.2 million annually,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

Mobility Capital Finance CEO Wole Coaxum said that the New York City-based company “looks forward to partnering with New York City to disburse funds for asylum seekers to purchase fresh, hot food.”

“MoCaFi’s goal is to expand access to financial resources for individuals excluded from banking, such as asylum seekers, while helping the local economy,” he said in the statement.

To receive the prepaid debit cards, migrants must sign an affidavit affirming that they will use the cards for diapers, baby formula and other purposes, according to the mayor’s office.

The cards will only work at bodegas, grocery stores, supermarkets and convenience stores, the Adams administration said. The amount deposited on the debit cards will depend on the family’s size and if they have any income.

Those who violate the terms risk being removed from the pilot program, but it wasn’t clear how the city would enforce those restrictions.

New York City has seen more than 170,000 asylum seekers arrive over the past year amid a historic surge of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border. Over the past year, the city has spent more than $1 billion for tens of thousands of migrants under its care and expects to spend about $10 billion on migrant costs in coming years.

“Adams and City Hall can’t even process food stamp/cash aid payments for our own residents in time…Yet, they come up with $53 million to give prepaid credit cards to migrants..?” Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels and a former New York City mayoral candidate, posted on X. ” While our own people suffer from food insecurity. This is disgraceful!”

Even Rapper 50 Cent, originally from New York City, took to social media to criticize Adams for offering the taxpayer-funded debit cards to the city’s migrants.

“WTF Mayor Adams call my phone,” he posted on Instagram. “I don’t understand how this works, somebody explain this. I’m stuck, maybe TRUMP is the answer.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who has been sending migrants to NYC and other Democrat-run cities in protest of the Biden administration’s immigration policies, also ripped the debit card program, calling it “insanity” and “offensive” as his state grapples with a surge of migrants.

“It may be the most reprehensible thing that I’ve seen take place over the past 48 hours,” Abbott told Fox Business. “What’s going on in New York is outrageous, and Americans across the entire country are angry not just about what’s going on in New York, but the underlying cause for it, which is Joe Biden’s open border policies.”