The Roosevelt Hotel
The Roosevelt Hotel, New York City's primary migrant arrival center. Latin Times/Andrea Pineda-Salgado

A program providing prepaid debit cards to migrants in New York City has been expanded for an additional six months, Noticias Telemundo reported.

The initiative is set to reach about 7,300 migrants over the next six months and cost $2.6 million. It's aimed at families with children or pregnant women.

Despite criticism, authorities argue the program is much cheaper than giving food to migrants, as the equivalent cost of doing so for such an amount was about $5.6 million.

They also argue it also allows them to buy fresher products rather than mostly eating non-perishable foods, a portion of which ended up at the trash. The program began in February, giving some $12.50 to each member of the benefited family over 28 days.

The cards only work to buy food and products for babies in places like bodegas, supermarkets and convenience stores. What can be bought is somewhat limited as cooking in migrant hotel rooms is prohibited. All beneficiaries had to sign an affidavit saying they'd use the cards for the intended purposes. If they are found in infraction, they will lose access to the program.

Quoting The New York Times, the outlet said the measure will expand from three to 17 hotels to provide the service to about 1,230 people over the next six months. The outlet added that there are currently more than 60,000 migrants under the city's care, and authorities have received some 200,000 over the past two years.

However, Republicans have continued expressing skepticism over the measure. "I appreciate that this is cheaper than a failed system of no-bid contracts, but this is a sign that the migrant crisis is here in perpetuity and the taxpayers are on the hook until the second coming," said Joseph Borelli, the Republican minority leader in the City Council.

In contrast, the city's deputy mayor for health and human services, Anne Williams-Isom, called the program a success and said it helped support migrants, reduce costs and put money into local businesses. "When we empower people, we help them achieve self-sufficiency and access the American dream," she said.

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