The claim: New York is giving migrants up to $10,000 on debit cards with no restrictions

A Feb. 20 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shows a video of a man speaking about a new program in New York City.

“While the city is currently crumbling under the weight of the illegal aliens, they decided it would be a brilliant idea to give out prepaid debit cards with up to $10,000 on them,” the man says. “And by the way, this is taxpayer money going to the illegals with no check of identification, no restrictions and no fraud control.”

The post was liked more than 1,500 times in three weeks.

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Our rating: False

The post misrepresents a pilot program in New York to provide some migrants with necessities by issuing prepaid debit cards. The cards can only be used to purchase food and baby supplies at certain kinds of stores and have fraud protections. Families will not be issued $10,000 debit cards. The post cites a website that regularly publishes false and exaggerated claims.

City will only add money to debit cards for 28 days of food at a time

The claim centers on a program that would replace the boxes of food provided to migrant families receiving shelter from the city of New York with preloaded debit cards.

The pilot program will provide around $12 or $13 per day per family member, according to William Fowler, a spokesperson for New York Housing Preservation and Development, which administers the contract for the city. As of March 12, he said no cards had been distributed and no firm launch date had been set for the program.

“The suggestion that New York City is handing out thousands of dollars in free cash to migrants who are only in our care on short-term stays is not only false, but contractually impossible,” Fowler said in an email to USA TODAY.

For a family of four, the card would be initially loaded with about $1,400, intended to help with necessities for 28 days. The card can hold a maximum of $10,000, but that would be practically impossible in the pilot, Fowler said, as the city “wouldn’t keep adding money to a card that is not being spent.”

The idea that the funds have no restrictions is also patently false, Fowler said. The cards will only work at businesses that have merchant category codes for grocery or convenience stores, and participants in the program must commit in writing to only using the cards for food and baby supplies. The cards cannot be used to withdraw cash.

Fowler said the cards will also have the kinds of fraud prevention features found with any debit cards, including the ability to freeze and replace them if cards are lost or stolen.

The post also claims that there is no ID requirement to participate in the program, but Fowler said ID checks are part of the intake process for migrants seeking housing from the city. Families with children, the only participants in the debit card program, must have identification at intake for all family members. Acceptable documents include a photo ID, passport or visa, birth certificate or an identity card in the Public Assistance system, according to Documented, a news organization covering immigration.

Fact check: Old prank video misrepresented as migrant defecating in public

The debit cards will be for migrant families living in hotel rooms the city secured as a last-resort housing option. That program only places families in a hotel for up to 28 days at a time. If the family needs additional time with city-provided housing, it must come back to the city and seek another placement, according to Spectrum News.

There is no guarantee they would be assigned again to a hotel, much less a location that is part of the pilot a second time, Fowler said. While the pilot program could grow to $53 million and provide debit cards to all residents staying in vouchered hotels, it is starting with a smaller cohort of 500 whose spending will be scrutinized to help judge the program’s effectiveness.

The program will save money and cut food waste, eliminating the need for donated food that goes uneaten, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a Feb. 5 news conference.

“These cards are going to go to bodegas, grocery stores, supermarkets,” Adams said. “Local businesses are going to benefit.”

The Instagram post refers viewers to an article in the Gateway Pundit making the claims. USA TODAY has debunked an array of false claims from the Gateway Pundit, including claims that a software company’s contract allows officials to override election results, that Biden gave the World Health Organization full authority over U.S. pandemic policies and that George Soros endorsed Ron DeSantis for president.

USA TODAY reached out to the Gateway Pundit for a comment, but the site did not provide any direct evidence supporting the claim. USA TODAY also reached out to the social media user who shared the claim for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

PolitiFact and Check Your Fact also debunked the claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: False claims migrants in New York get $10,000 debit cards | Fact check

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