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Migrants in New York City will receive prepaid debit cards, not credit cards, for designated goods – The Associated Press

February 27, 2024

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
An immigrant family show their paperwork to security guards at the Roosevelt Hotel, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in New York. Social media users are misrepresenting a new pilot program in New York City that will provide migrants with prepaid debit cards for designated goods. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
CLAIM: New York City is giving credit cards to migrants living in the U.S. illegally.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. The city is launching a pilot program that will provide migrants with prepaid debit cards to buy only food and baby supplies, according to a spokesperson for the mayor. Participants will be allowed to shop with the cards at bodegas, grocery stores, supermarkets and convenience stores. The goal is to cut costs, officials said.
THE FACTS: Amid a massive influx of migrants to New York City, social media users are misrepresenting the new program with false claims about the type of aid participants will receive.
“Lunatic Democrats handing out credit cards to foreigners while Americans are struggling,” reads one post on X, formerly Twitter, that had received approximately 7,900 likes and more than 3,800 shares as of Tuesday.
A Facebook post reads: “Want to bet that New York City’s illegal crisis is going to get worse? $53,000,000.00 in free credit cards ensure that it will. New York will fall very soon.”

But migrants will get prepaid debit cards as part of the New York pilot program — not credit cards — with which they will only be permitted to purchase food and baby supplies at certain types of retailers.
The cards are a possible replacement for non-perishable food boxes the city currently provides to migrants. They will be loaded with an average of $12.52 per person, per day for 28 days, according to Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Eric Adams. SNAP and WIC, federally funded health and nutrition programs, already use similar prepaid cards to dole out benefits.
New York City has allocated $53 million to the pilot program, which officials say will save $600,000 per month and $7.2 million annually. The program will also allow migrants to purchase food and baby supplies of their choosing. Adams said at a press conference on Monday that beyond savings, officials hope using the cards at area retailers will help stimulate the local economy.
About 35 minutes into the press conference, Adams addressed the veracity of the claims spreading online.
“We need to dispel the rumor that we gave American Express cards to everyone,” he said. “That is just not true.”
Credit cards and debit cards are two very different types of payment methods. When using a credit card, a consumer borrows money that they must repay on a certain due date. Debit cards are linked to a bank or credit union account, meaning one generally can’t spend more money than they have in their account. Prepaid debit cards must be loaded with money before they can be used, as they are not linked to a bank or credit union account.
Mamelak told The Associated Press that migrants in the “cost-effective technology pilot program” will only receive prepaid debit cards.
“We will provide prepaid debit cards to an initial 500 migrant families with children who may use the prepaid cards exclusively at bodegas, grocery stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores to ensure the money is spent on food and baby supplies,” she wrote in an email.
Mamelak explained that participants “will be required to sign an affidavit affirming that they will be using these cards for the intended purposes” and that doing otherwise will risk removal from the program.
Mobility Capital Finance, or MoCaFi, the company that New York City is partnering with to launch the program, confirmed to the AP that the cards “are not credit cards.”
MoCaFi said the program is expected to begin later this month. If the program is successful, the city will expand it, Adams said at Monday’s press conference.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.
Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


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