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New York City begins giving illegal immigrants prepaid debit cards as part of $53 million pilot program

New York City officials have begun handing out debit cards, which are meant to be used to purchase food and baby supplies, to migrant families residing in the Big Apple.

Officials in New York City have begun giving out prepaid debit cards to migrant families residing in the Big Apple.

The first batch of debit cards, which are reportedly meant to be used by the illegal immigrants to purchase food and baby supplies, were handed out Monday to a handful of migrant families in the city, New York City Mayor Eric Adams' office confirmed to Fox News Digital.

The effort is part of a reported $53 million pilot program to hand out prepaid credit cards to migrant families housed in hotels despite public outcry.

The program, which the mayor's office confirmed will provide migrant families of four with two children under 5 with up to $350 each week until the end of their stay, began with a limited number of families on Monday and will expand to about 115 families, or roughly 460 people, over the next week.


The prepaid cards may only be used at bodegas, grocery stores, supermarkets and convenience stores. Migrants eligible for the program must sign an affidavit stating they will only spend the funds on food and baby supplies, or else they could lose access to the funds, Adams' office said.

Additionally, the mayor's office confirmed that the pilot program was launched using a phased approach, starting with only a few hotels. City officials have noted that the cards will be loaded with one week's worth of funds at a time and that their use would be monitored.

The cards are reportedly being distributed at the city’s arrival center, the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, to the migrant families who are staying at hotels that are being used as emergency shelters.

New Jersey company Mobility Capital Finance has partnered with the city to run the program.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, a city hall spokesperson noted that New York City was "excited" about launching the effort, describing it as a "cost-saving measure [that] will replace the city’s current system of providing non-perishable food boxes to migrant families staying in hotels, much of which is often discarded."

"A large part of our success is due to our constant work to find new ways to better serve the hundreds of individuals and families arriving every single day, as well as the longtime New Yorkers experiencing homelessness who are already in our care," the spokesperson said. "That is why we are excited to launch an innovative, cost-saving pilot program with Mobility Capital Finance to distribute pre-paid cards to migrant families to purchase only food and baby supplies."

"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 taxpayers more than $600,000 per month and $7 million per year," the spokesperson added. "The prepaid cards can be used exclusively at select stores to ensure the money is spent on food and baby supplies."

Under the pilot program, which is expected to last for six weeks, migrants could receive more money from the city than the state gives to low-income and elderly New Yorkers under SNAP benefits.

According to the state's website, single households are eligible for up to $291 a month in SNAP benefits aimed at providing "low-income working people, senior citizens, the disabled and others" money to buy food products.


The migrant pilot program also hands out more than two times the amount the state gives monthly in services for single veterans, Fox News's Bryan Llenas reported last month.

Mayor Adams, a Democrat, has vehemently defended the program and the "misinformation" surrounding it.

Appearing before a state legislative budget hearing in Albany last month, Adams said, "We’re not giving people American Express cards."

"We found that the food delivery service that we set up during the emergency – we could find a better way to do it in our belief that we want to cut 20% of the migrant costs. So we have a pilot project with 500 people that we are giving them food cards, so instead of a debit card, instead of having to deliver food, and have people eat food — we were seeing wasting food — they’re now able to get their own food, that is going to be spent $12 a day," he said at the time.

"So we are going to save money on delivery, we’re going to save money on people wasting food, and this is a pilot project we’re going to use that is going to save us $6.7 million a year," he added.  "And if the pilot turns out to be successful, then we’re going to expand it not only with the migrants and asylum seekers, we’d look to do that expansion throughout the entire system — trying to find smarter, more cost — effective ways to deal with this crisis that was dropped in our lap."

The mayor's explanation came in February during an annual hearing, known as "Tin Cup Day," when mayors make budgetary requests before the state legislature.

New York City's government has projected it will spend at least $10.6 billion on migrants by summer 2025. New York state has already vowed to contribute about $2 billion in the current budget cycle to the migrant crisis, but Adams told lawmakers that the state pledge would only cover one-third of the city’s migrant costs.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, another Democrat, has suggested the state earmark $2.4 billion to go toward migrant services in the next budget cycle, but the details have not been ironed out before the state legislature. Adams' office said even that allocation proposed by Hochul would be $600 million short of what the city needs in its next budget cycle, the New York Daily News reported last month.

Roughly 180,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since 2022, overwhelming city resources as officials have struggled to find housing for them. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has bused asylum-seekers to New York and other cities in an effort to assist them in traveling to sanctuary jurisdictions and also highlight the crisis that border communities face on a daily basis.

Fox News' Danielle Wallace and Chris Pandolfo contributed to this report.

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