[ theme music plays ] >> buenos d^as y bienvenidos. good morning. welcome once again to "tiempo." i'm joe torres. feliz ao nuevo, todo el mundo. the new york city controller's office recently reached out to the public for help in finding 1,000 workers -- workers -- owed more than $3 million in unclaimed wages. so far, only 53 workers have come forward to claim their money. there is so much more still to be claimed. so, the controller is here to explain how workers can get their hands on money that is rightfully theirs. that's coming up in just a few minutes. right now, however, the new year kicks off a critical and important time for so many college-bound students, many of them latinos, who qualify for financial aid.
students do not apply for the assistance because they run into trouble, completing a free federal application, an application that, by the way, is necessary in order to receive that much-needed money for school. here's the good news, though -- there's an organization in our area, latino u college access, that stands ready to help hispanic students fill out this form and prepare, get ready. recently, latino u partnered with westchester county, and joining us today to talk about this collaboration is the westchester county executive, rob astorino, and our good friend shirley acevedo buontempo, founder and executive director of latino u college access. thank you both. happy holidays. i hope everything went well. they came to you? you came to them? how did this meeting of the minds come together? >> este programa es muy importante a la econom^a y las familias de westchester. they came to us through our youth bureau. and it was something that caught my attention, and i thought, you know, this is really important because, if you think
i'm a couple years away from dealing with college and forms. but i remember dealing with that, and it's a nightmare. going for a car loan, anything where it's complicated. and if you don't speak english, should that be the only barrier for you not getting tuition assistance or getting into a college and maybe changing the trajectory of your family forever, getting a good job? >> right. >> so, this is something that we want kids of all races -- we want kids -- >> it's not just for latinos, for sure. >> no, but take an opportunity here to get some help, to fill out, with spanish-speaking adults who can help you through this process -- for the family itself to get through this process and to get into college and get the tuition assistance that you need or qualify for. >> before i get to shirley, in what ways is the county lending a helping hand? >> well, financially, we're helping the organization, which i think latino u is a good one and it's something that is providing a service. but think about this. it's not just for today. it's for college-bound kids that
but i'm looking at it in a different perspective, too. economic development -- you know, 5, 10 years, when these kids go through college... >> oh, yeah. >> ...all of a sudden, they're gonna look to live somewhere and to work somewhere and maybe start a business on their own. >> yep. >> i would love for them to be able to do that in westchester or new york. >> well, you're getting ahead of me because i think, ultimately, that's the benefit for the county. >> sure. >> we have you here -- welcome back, shirley -- because january 1st -- what happens january 1st? fafsa application opens up, correct? >> the fafsa application opens up on january 1st. >> and getting in early -- the application -- is critical. talk to me about the importance of that. >> yes, completing the application early is really one of the most important things that students and their parents can do because federal grants and state tuition-assistance programs are often delivered on a rolling basis by universities. so, the earlier you get your application is the more likely you are to get increased grant funding from the federal government. >> i want to do a very quick review.
>> "free application for federal student aid." it's a free application, and students need to be sure that they're on the correct website in order to complete it 'cause there's a couple of tricky websites there that charge a fee. >> yeah, we're gonna put some names of the websites up so people make no mistake. but i want to be sure -- much of the information that's filled out in the application is held in your income-tax return. >> correct. >> so, the question, therefore -- do you wait to fill out the application until you get your returns back? or do you go and start the application before you get that information? >> well, you know, that's were the cultural relevance comes in with our organization because we know that latinos -- we live in a maana mentality -- "i'll go maana, maana." >> yes. >> and sometimes they think that, because the application is asking for their current-year income-tax returns, that they need to wait to complete it. >> oy, oy, oy. >> to do it today. >> yes. >> but the reality is that you should fill out your application using last year's federal return and then update it.
year, finally, the federal government has issued that the application will accept prior-year income tax. and that will make it so much easier for so many families and updating. >> before we get to the websites are coming up... >> yes. >> ...the county is also lending a helping hand in terms of facilities, you know, places where they can have these boot camps. >> we're trying to work with the school districts, too, to get classrooms available and space available so that they can come in and there's enough people. the goal is almost 1,000 people, right, that we'd like to get to take advantage of this. and if we could change 1,000 families and their generations to come by sending the first child in their family to go to school, how amazing is that? >> and education is the key. >> absolutely. >> that's why we talk about it so often here on "tiempo." sit tight. a couple more questions for you. when we come back, more on the westchester county financial aid workshops and where to find them. so, we'll point that out in the next segment. still ahead on "tiempo," it's a presidential election year. many immigrant-advocacy groups
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>> welcome back to "tiempo." we have been discussing the campaign in westchester county to help college-bound latino students apply for much-needed financial aid, and we've been talking this morning to the westchester country executive, rob astorino. shirley acevedo buontempo is the founder and executive director of latino u college access. and i know you guys have already lined up to start off your fafsa first campaign and the boot camps. walk me through the campaign and the boot camps. >> absolutely. fafsa first is a community coalition of partners, including westchester county government, the white plains public library, college goal new york, and 11 community organizations that have joined together to ensure that we increase fafsa completion among latino youth in westchester county. >> and your first boot camp -- is that what you're calling it? -- is scheduled for -- we're looking at january 17th at 100 martine avenue -- that's the white plains library -- 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
information, you can go to collegegoalny.org. more on that in just a second. but if we show up at the boot camp, what happens there? >> so, we will provide bilingual volunteers that will assist a student and their parent to complete the application from start to finish. >> yes. >> and what's great about that is that it's often the complexity of the form and also filling out the form incorrectly that prevents families from succeeding and prevents families from receiving the financial aid. millions of students that qualify do not apply for fafsa and leave millions of dollars on the table of unutilized grants. >> very quickly, shirley, collegegoalny.org is the website that you can go to -- because we're not talking just about westchester county. what will you find there? other boot camps throughout -- >> other boot camps or other fafsa completion programs that are being offered not just in new york city and long island, but in all of new york state. so, if you don't live near westchester and you're one of our fafsa boot camps, feel free
and attend many of the other sessions that are being hosted. >> i think a lot of people still have the misguided outlook of westchester county as being -- how shall we say? -- largely white, largely affluent, very few latinos. correct me on the demographics, if you will. and you don't have to correct me because i know what they are, but to the viewers who think that westchester is that sort of picture in their mind, when in reality it's not. >> no, it's now cambiando, and rapidly, and that's a good thing. i mean, we are the fourth most diverse county in all of new york. we're tied with new york county, which is manhattan, which is pretty amazing. we have a million people. 23% and growing of our population is hispanic. >> a quarter. yeah. >> now, i get it, and you get it. "hispanic" is a very big umbrella, and within that, there's mexican, puerto rican, el salvador, et cetera. but it's a very diverse community. and, you know, i do hope people take advantage of this. the white plains library is right across from the galleria mall, and a lot of public transportation, too, if
so, take advantage of this, please. this is an opportunity to get a kid into college. >> shirley, i want to point out that the only place where you can find the application is at fafsa.gov. >> fafsa.gov. >> okay. >> use the .gov because oftentimes there are websites that charge a fee that are misleading. >> and very important -- if you're gonna go to one of the boot camps or one of the -- what should you bring with you to make the applicant's job -- and the helper -- easier? >> in order to complete the application with the assistance of a volunteer, you should bring with you your 2014 income-tax return or 2015 if you happen to be an early bird and get it done, your w-2 form, if you've received it for that year, a bank statement, as well. and you need to bring that information for both the student and the parent who is attending. >> and you don't need a no. 2 pencil. >> no, you don't. exactly. >> it's all done online. >> and, shirley, i don't want to get so new york-centric because i'm sure there are parents in new jersey and connecticut who are watching, saying, "what
is it a google search away, where they can find out where a similar boot camp would be in their community? >> absolutely. there are a number of fafsa completion programs being hosted in all of the neighboring states and even nationally. so, anyone that is interested or needs help should not give up. they should certainly google it, look it up through their local fafsa completion workshops. universities often host them. >> take advantage. >> please feel free to attend. >> i'll let you have the final word, and i want you to finish the thought that you were talking about before. the benefit for westchester county, as a whole, in this regard, would be...? >> we have a very educated workforce in westchester, literally, the highest-educated county in all of america. >> mm-hmm. >> and i want to add to that. i want people who come back from college to know that there are jobs waiting for them. there are opportunities for them to start jobs. and unfortunately, in today's society, unless you have that education, it's harder to move up that ladder. so, do what immigrants in the past have done. get that education, move up the
better for it. >> and how great it would be to return to the place where you grew up? >> that would be great. >> thank you both. continued success. thank you very much. coming up next on "tiempo," it is a presidential election year. many immigrant-advocacy groups are in our area, working hard to get legal residents to become citizens as soon as possible. we'll talk about that. still ahead, an important initiative spearheaded by new york city's controller's office. he is looking for hundreds of workers who have money waiting for them -- mucho dinero.
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morning gary. we are get schooled... ...dot com. you want a college education, don't you? you know you do. that's why we're here. we're free, and here to guide you through every step of the way. starting with... attendance. [air horn] gary, financial aid forms... picking a college, man! you and us. we go together like tacos and tuesday. and i loooove tacos. narrator: go to getschooled.com >> it is officially a presidential election year, and with the apparent anti-immigrant sentiment amongst some presidential candidates and immigration reform stalled in congress, many new york city immigrant-advocacy groups are redoubling their efforts to convert legal residents to citizens. and here to talk about how and why they're doing this, we're now joined by angela fernandez from the northern manhattan coalition for immigrant rights, jessica orozco of the
good to see you. >> very nice to see you. >> i hope your holidays went well. >> it went well. thank you. >> this -- your effort -- did you see it work somewhere else? i mean, who's the brainchild behind this that said, "you know what? citizenship and then voting." >> well, it's something -- i mean, it's historical in the united states. and changes happen when people go and vote. and we can see this already with the people that we've elected into office and the policies that they support. so, when we saw the rising anti-immigrant sentiment, which is actually led by a few leaders -- we don't believe that the majority of americans feel this way -- we decided we want to really focus. and our organization has identified thursdays as citizenship thursdays. and with resources that we have, from taxes paid by immigrants, we can provide these services for free. so, we provide free immigration services on thursdays. people come into our office. they get high-quality service by trained representatives. and what we're seeing is a very quick turnaround now. when someone submits an
become a citizen anywhere between three, four, to about six months. >> so, the motivation for this, jessica -- is it solely political? or is there much more behind it? i think there's any number of reasons why you want to become a citizen. walk me through some of them. >> there are tons of reasons to become a citizen. i mean, right now, 2016 -- of course, you know, you can go out and vote with your naturalization, with your citizenship. and we've been seeing that, with this anti-immigrant rhetoric coming about, our agencies -- you know, not just new york, but new jersey, connecticut -- we see people coming in and they want to vote and they're saying, "i need somebody to represent me." and also, when you are a citizen, that's the only way that you are 100% protected from deportation. so, you're safe, right? and then you can also petition for your family members abroad to come here and join you in the u.s. >> mm-hmm. is it just a matter of good timing that allows you to push this and the sentiment you're seeing? or shouldn't have been this the push for so many people all along, that the incentive has always been there? you know, you want your democratic rights. one of them is the ability to vote.
>> so, one of the issues is that about 10 years ago, it cost $100 or less to apply for citizenship. i'm talking about the government fee. >> yes. >> the government fee to apply for citizenship is $680. >> mm-hmm. >> that is a tremendous amount of money for low-income immigrants whose average income can be up to $20,000 a year. so, fortunately, we have leadership here in the city and at the state level that has decided to fund programs at a higher rate to help organizations like ours provide a free service to help them apply for citizenship. >> and cut that cost. >> and cut down that cost. or, actually, some lawyers charge, for example, a couple thousand dollars... >> yes. >> ...to help people through that process. well, there are plenty of nonprofits throughout the city and throughout new jersey and connecticut that can provide this service for free. >> so, without having that dollar figure staring you in the face, suddenly the interest goes up, right, because now suddenly it's something that i can
>> and when you're screened by these not-for-profit organizations that have board of immigration appeals representatives or attorneys on staff, you're properly screened, you may even qualify for a free waiver. so, these organizations can help you, like, you know, apply for that fee waiver, and you get exempt from the $680. >> so, are you guys fully prepared, what should be and what may be an onslaught of people who say, "yes, i want to move forward and i want to go on the path to citizenship and you guys can help me do that"? with the call, the clarion call now being that much greater, i would think the doors will be flooded with people coming in. how prepared are you to handle that? >> well, we've already been doing it. they have been coming in. we have seen an increase over the last six months of individuals coming and seeking to be screened for us to see if they're eligible and then to apply. so, it's something that we're thankful and grateful for the funding that we've been receiving to be able to hire people and to provide these services. >> do you find that -- what works with so many people is, "you want a say in the election? vote." >> exactly.
you really don't have a say. >> exactly, and they want people who represent their communities. and they see, like angela said previously, that this anti-immigrant rhetoric -- that's not what a normal american feels. that's not what the average american feels. >> we've got 20 seconds left. next time there's an opportunity to go to one of these workshops or a place is every thursday, you said? >> every thursday at northern manhattan coalition for immigrant rights. we're located at 5030 broadway. >> and your website is...? >> nmcir.org. >> all the information there. un placer. thank you guys very much. still ahead on "tiempo," new york city controller scott stringer looking for hundreds of workers who have mucho dinero waiting for them in unclaimed wages.
get this money that's waiting for them. new york city controller scott stringer, welcome. and you've had some people walk into the office already, right? and you must feel so good when you hand them a check and say, "here, this is yours." >> well, since we began this campaign, we've returned $350,000 to 53 people. most recently, right before christmas, a man came into the office, didn't really know why he was coming. and i handed him a check for $26,000. this is money he earned... >> yes. >> ...but the contractor didn't pay him. >> and how did you get the money to be able to give it to him? >> because we go after the contractors, and when we get money, we put it in a reserve fund -- $3.7 million -- so that we can now track down $1,000 workers and get them the money that they earned. this is so important for people who are struggling. contractors, immigrants, people who do the right thing, play by the rules -- they get ripped off, they have no recourse, but we're now showing them that we're gonna go after these contractors. >> and this time of year, when the bills are pouring in from
$26,000? who gets greater reward -- you do from giving it to them or them from getting it? >> i think the person who got the $26,000 probably. happier. >> but we take this very seriously, and since i've been controller, we have debarred 30 companies, meaning they can't do business with the city for five years. >> here's a picture of that worker -- ruben reyes. he was a plumber, installed water meters, and you handing him a check for $26,000. you made his day, for sure. >> it was very exciting. >> at the same time, 53 people, their money. you've got a list of 1,000. are you a little disheartened that more haven't come in? i mean, how hard is it to track these guys down and come get them to get their money? >> look, when we started, we didn't know what was gonna happen, but we now have 53 people we found. we've distributed $350,000. this is the beginning of the campaign, not the end of the campaign. the more we get the word out, the more i think we'll find people. but we're also sending a message to these contractors -- "you rip people off, you're not gonna do business with the city of new york for five years."
that are ripping of workers. and we also are making sure that people who earned this money get this money. >> get this money. what's the process to get the money? is it as simple as showing up at your office and knocking on your door? is there paperwork that needs to be filled out? what needs to be done so that they can get their money? >> if you think you're owed money, contact our office. it's as simple as that. if you're worried about immigration status, we don't ask any questions. you just come in. we match you with the work you've done, and you leave with a check. showed me. you got a couple of workers who are owed a substantial sum. one worker from queens has $77,000 waiting for him, another from brooklyn $59,000. i mean, typically, most checks are what, if you had to average it out? $5,000? $6,000? >> you know, it ranges, but, look, wage theft is a very serious issue in this country and in this city, and this is our way of cracking down. so, people who are watching, if you think you're owed money, we'll find out. we'll track it down for you. and if you're owed money, you're getting paid.
it's worth reiterating. you have the money in hand, but at the same time, the process of going after unscrupulous contractors who don't pay their workers continues, does it not? >> we have debarred a record number of contractors since i've become controller, and that's the work we do every day. we investigate prevailing wage violations, we investigate worker violations, and then we make sure that we return the hard-earned money that people have earned to their families, to themselves, so they can help their kids, they can pay their rent, you know, feed their families. >> this time of year, you feel like santa claus a little bit? >> it's the nice part of the job, but it's an uphill battle tracking people down. that's why we need the public to become aware of this. >> you're heard it here. you got money wait for you. get ahold of the controller's office and find out if you're on the list. good seeing you. thank you so much. before we go, let's take a look at the "tiempo" community calendar for this week. two musical events to tell you about. tomorrow evening in manhattan, a tribute to the queen of latin music, selena, will take place at b.b. king's blues club. that's located at 237 west 42nd
the concert gets under way at 8:00. next saturday in queens -- how about this? -- freestyle music from the 1980s continues to live on. dozens of freestyle artists will converge at resorts world casino to perform their classic freestyle hits. the casino located on rockaway boulevard. that party gets going at 7:00. much^simas gracias. thank you at home for watching and spending part of your sunday with us. if you missed any part of our show, how about this? you can catch it at abc7ny, our website. go to the webpage. even on your tablet you can find it. it works on your smartphone, as well. that wraps up another edition of "tiempo." i'm joe torres. thanks for watching. we hope you learned something.