New York City Spends $8 Million a Day to House Asylum Seekers

City officials applied in April to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $350 million in aid to help pay for the costs of the migrant crisis but learned late last week they would receive just a fraction of that amount

The Statue of Liberty stands in this aerial photograph taken in New York.
May 08, 2023 | 02:11 PM

Bloomberg — New York City is spending about $8 million a day to house the 37,500 asylum seekers currently in shelters, a burden that is straining the budget and overwhelming city agencies, officials said Monday.

The crisis has grown so dire that Mayor Eric Adams said Friday that he planned to bus several hundred adult male migrants to two hotels in Orange Lake and Orangeburg, in upstate Rockland County. Many of the asylum seekers in New York were bused to the city from Texas and other states, drawing rebuke from Adams.

“We are facing an unprecedented humanitarian emergency,” Department of Social Services Acting Commissioner Molly Wasow Park told the City Council. She estimated that it was costing $256 per day to house and care for each migrant household in Department of Homeless Services shelters.

Adams, a Democrat and backer of President Joe Biden, has recently begun criticizing the White House for its failure to help the city manage a crisis that will likely worsen this week. A pandemic-era federal regulation known as Title 42 is set to expire on May 11, removing a tool the federal government has used to deter or expel migrants who entered the country illegally.

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Earlier this month, Adams said “the national government has turned its back on New York City,” arguing the solution to the crisis is “in the lap of the president of the United States.”

City officials applied in April to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $350 million in aid to help pay for the costs of the migrant crisis but learned late last week they would receive just a fraction of that amount, some $30.5 million. That figure is “not anywhere close to enough to cover the cost of assistance for asylum seekers,” City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said in a statement.

The extraordinary cost of housing the asylum-seekers is due in part to New York’s unique “right to shelter” law, the result of a 1981 legal settlement that requires the city to provide housing to every unhoused person. That mandate has forced the city to turn to using costly commercial hotels as emergency shelters to house migrants, Park said. Those costs are 35% to 88% higher than the city’s daily expenses for sheltering other homeless individuals.

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Comply with the right-to-shelter law?

Over the past year, city officials have been left scrambling to comply with the right-to-shelter law. On Monday, attorneys with the Legal Aid Society said the city was improperly using an old Police Academy building in Manhattan to house several migrant families with children, the Daily News reported.

More than 60,800 asylum seekers have entered the city, and at least 37,500 are currently being sheltered by the city, in addition to more than 40,000 other homeless people being cared for in shelters. The city has opened 126 emergency shelters in the past year, Park said Monday.

Adams has repeatedly warned that he anticipates the migrant crisis will cost the city $4.3 billion by July 2024, punching a sizable hole in the city’s $106.7 billion annual budget, though some outside budget analysts have said the city is likely overestimating the total costs.

The plan to begin shipping migrants upstate drew immediate condemnation from Rockland County Executive Ed Day, a Republican, who declared a state of emergency on Saturday in an effort to block Adams from sending migrants upstate. Day said Rockland County would establish “a licensing requirement for all hotels” that would levy a “$2,000 per-day, per-immigrant fine” for hotels that accepted immigrants without permission from the county executive’s office.

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“This is not about immigrants and about children and about being kind or being good,” Day said. “There is a legitimate process to do that.”

Adams never asked Rockland County officials for their opinion on whether or not the plan was a good idea, Day said in a radio interview over the weekend.

“Well, here is my response,” Day said. “Mr. Adams, you can try to run us over. I will reach up and grab you by the throat for the people of Rockland County,” he said, suggesting that the migrants entering the US might include “child rapists, criminals” and “MS-13,” an international criminal gang.

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Adams’s plan also drew fire from immigration advocates, who decried the shipping of migrants out of the city as hypocritical, after the mayor had criticized Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for sending migrants out of their states to northern cities.

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