New York City’s Asylum Seeker Debit Card Program Raises Concerns Over Potential Multi-Billion-Dollar Cost

New York City’s Asylum Seeker Debit Card Program Raises Concerns Over Potential Multi-Billion-Dollar Cost

New York City’s contract with an inexperienced bank, Mobility Capital Finance (MoCaFi), to distribute debit cards to asylum seekers is under scrutiny, as it may potentially cost up to $10,000 per migrant.

The program, championed by Democrat Mayor Eric Adams, initially promised cost savings but is now seen as an open-ended deal with the potential to reach billions.

The Pilot Program’s Cost Discrepancy:

Mayor Adams stated that the pilot program, beginning with 500 families at The Roosevelt Hotel migrant shelter, would cost $52 million.

The intention was to allow migrants to purchase their own necessities, saving the city $600,000 per month and $7.2 million annually.

However, a closer look at the contract reveals that the $53 million mentioned is not the total cost but rather the fee for MoCaFi’s services.

City Hall has granted flexibility to disburse at least $2.5 billion on pre-paid debit cards over a year.

The discrepancy between the initially stated cost and the potential multi-billion-dollar expenditure raises concerns about transparency and accountability in the handling of public funds.

Fine-Print Details and Lack of Oversight:

The contract permits allocating up to $10,000 per migrant, without stringent ID checks or fraud control.

Although officials claim migrants will sign an affidavit to use the card only for essential items, the lack of robust controls raises doubts about the program’s effectiveness.

Additionally, the absence of a competitive bidding process for MoCaFi’s selection adds to the controversy.

The absence of rigorous oversight measures and the circumvention of competitive bidding processes question the city’s commitment to responsible financial management.

MoCaFi’s Lack of Experience in Refugee Aid:

MoCaFi, founded by former JPMorgan Chase managing director Wole Coaxum, lacks experience in running refugee aid programs.

The company typically focuses on pre-paid third-party debit cards, raising concerns about its suitability for handling the complexities of asylum seeker assistance.

The choice of MoCaFi, seemingly referred by City Hall, without relevant experience in refugee aid, underscores potential shortcomings in the program’s administration and execution.

City’s Response to Migrant Crisis:

The debit card program is the latest controversial move by City Hall in response to the escalating migrant crisis in New York.

With over 170,000 migrants arriving since 2022, Mayor Adams acknowledged the strain on resources and infrastructure, highlighting the potential for a surge in homelessness.

The city’s response to the migrant crisis, including the debit card program, reflects the challenges of managing an influx of migrants and the need for comprehensive and effective solutions.


As the debit card program unfolds, concerns about its financial implications, oversight, and the suitability of the chosen partner continue to mount.

The broader context of the migrant crisis further emphasizes the complexities involved in managing such challenges within an urban setting.

City Hall’s decisions and actions will likely face increased scrutiny as the program progresses.

TDPel Media

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