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NYC pilot program to give prepaid debit cards to migrants

(NewsNation) — A new pilot program in New York City is giving migrant families a prepaid debit card if they sign an affidavit saying they will only use the money at grocery or convenience stores for food and baby supplies.

NewsNation local affiliate PIX11 writes that the city will hand out cards to 115 families staying in hotels that were converted into shelters this week. About 460 migrants, including many children, will be fed by the city, the station writes.

David Carr, an NYC councilman, says there is no difference between doing this and giving the migrants donations of food and supplies at shelters, which the city has already been doing.

“We’ve been providing as a city support to migrant families for well over 18 months now,” he said on “NewsNation Now” Wednesday. “And now we’re just making it worse by giving out these prepaid debit cards. It’s a travesty.”

Carr said these cards would make New York more attractive to migrants.

“Yes, they’re coming to America for a lot of different reasons,” Carr said. “But why are they choosing New York? It’s because of the generosity that the city has put forward to the detriment of New York City taxpayers.”

Carr called the cards “cash handouts” to migrants and said the fact that the company providing them is on a no-bid contract adds “insult to injury.”

“They may not be getting the best value for money,” he said. “We could have had a company that maybe did this cheaper than the one that was ultimately selected.”

However, in an interview with PIX11, Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said the program could potentially save the city $600,000 a month.

“We are making sure we are putting in guardrails so people can only buy food and baby supplies,” Williams-Isom said. “So if you try to go to Bloomingdale’s and use it for shoes, it will be rejected. If there are things where we see people abuse it, we can take the card back.”

Williams-Isom said city officials will review purchase data to identify those abusing the system. They also plan to keep the program small and limited to those with children.

“We are required to make sure that people have shelter and people have food and that people are staying safe,” Williams-Isom said. “This is not something extra that we are doing. This is us trying to think of an innovative way to make sure that we are giving people what we are required to give them but that we are being efficient and not wasteful.”

Watch the full interview in the player above.