In a city celebrated for its vibrant tapestry of cultures, New York now faces an unprecedented migration crisis that is straining its economic resilience. The city has seen an influx of more than 70,000 migrants since the spring of the previous year, with just last week alone seeing 2,200 new migrants arriving in the city.
There are currently more migrants in the city’s care and shelters than native homeless New Yorkers. Despite the significant number of arrivals, very few migrants are applying for asylum.
When asked at a recent asylum press briefing on May 31st, how many migrants have applied for asylum, Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom answered very few. Williams-Isom also said the administration intends to address this issue. She suggested that the low number of asylum applications could be due to various factors. According to Williams-Isom, these factors include potential nervousness, a lack of awareness about where to connect with necessary services, and confusion about who should receive their documentation.
The unprecedented surge in migration, coupled with a concerning budget deficit, threatens to strain the city’s capacity to provide adequate shelter and basic amenities for its rapidly expanding population.
Mayor Eric Adams’ “decompression strategy,” an ambitious initiative to relocate portions of the migrant population to upstate communities has been beleaguered with challenges. The strategy was born out of necessity as the city’s resources including shelters, continue to be stretched thin amidst a rising tide of newcomers. Every bus pulling into the Port Authority not only carries individuals and families seeking a better life but also compounds an already staggering cost that has surpassed $4.3 billion. Additionally, migrants are flying into New York City from other parts of the nation and other countries to enter the city shelter and care system.
The economic pressure on New York is immense, as the city currently provides shelter for almost 50,000 migrants. Now at around 90,000 with less than half being native New Yorkers, in the city’s shelter system, the city’s fiscal situation is reaching a critical point. The average annual cost to shelter a single adult in New York is a hefty $50,000, and a family unit requires an even larger sum of $69,000. These substantial costs rapidly consume a large portion of the city’s budget and are exacerbated as federal funding for the migrant crisis is dwindling.
Jacques Jiha, the Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, has warned of a widening budget deficit due to an anticipated shortfall in the federal emergency funding allocated for the migrant crisis. Initial projections had the city receiving a significant share of the $800 million national allocation from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). However, the reality is starkly different, with the city expecting to receive less than $40 million.
This grim financial landscape is further complicated because the city has already received a meager $30.5 million from the federal fund’s first $360 million tranche. FEMA’s constraints, limiting each locality to claiming no more than 10% of the second tranche, mean that the city’s hopes for obtaining substantial federal funding to manage the crisis are increasingly slim.
During a panel discussion arranged by the Citizens Budget Commission, Jiha drew attention to these concerns, highlighting the growing budget deficit as the city grapples with the costs of providing food, shelter, healthcare, and legal services for migrants. The city has projected a substantial $1.4 billion in migrant-related expenses by the end of June, which are expected to balloon to $4.3 billion by June 2024. This estimate is likely conservative, as Jiha and Mayor Adams have cautioned, particularly if the current pace of migrant arrivals through all ports, including by bus and by plane, continues.
Adding another layer of complexity is the upcoming City Council primary election on Tuesday, June 27th, which puts additional pressure on city administrators to balance the budget within a tight timeframe.