The state expects the fund will help 40,000 families. (Courtesy of Make the Road New Jersey)
State officials added another $10 million of federal funding to the state’s Excluded New Jerseyans Fund, which will extend the deadline to apply for the benefit past the end of the year.
The additional pool of money comes through the American Rescue Plan, which states can use through 2023. The original $40 million fund was set to expire Dec. 31, 2021, the federal deadline to use coronavirus relief dollars.
It’s the second time officials have moved to beef up the fund, on the heels of a rally where undocumented immigrants called for more money. Last week, the Department of Human Services announced the benefit amount would be doubled to $2,000 per individual, with a maximum of $4,000 per household. All applicants who were already approved will receive the higher benefit amounts.
“We are dedicated to providing as much assistance as possible to New Jersey families in need, and are pleased we can provide a larger cash benefit to eligible families applying for the Fund,” Acting Commissioner Sarah Adelman said in a statement. “We hope more families will take advantage of this assistance now that there is more funding and more time to apply.”
The fund launched in late October, and provides a one-time direct payment to eligible residents — like undocumented immigrants and formerly incarcerated individuals — who were excluded from pandemic-era relief, including unemployment benefits and stimulus checks.
Households that earn up to $55,000 in annual income and can show documented financial hardships due to COVID-19 and exclusion from pandemic-era relief will be eligible for the fund.
Since it was announced in May, advocacy organizations have called on Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature to add more money to the fund. Make the Road NJ, an Elizabeth-based immigrant organization, said $40 million would equate to less than $100 per person.
And since the fund launched, immigrants have reported problems applying, stressing it is onerous and cumbersome process for a small amount of money. Some applicants are told to upload more documents when they’ve sent in the maximum amount, and others are told to add more information without being told what’s missing.
DHS spokesman Tom Hester said the application process is following the guidelines set for programs using federal COVID-19 funds, stressing resources are available on the state’s website in multiple languages.
“Applicants do not need to produce every document listed online — applicants only need one of the valid documents types in each category,” Hester said. “We work closely with the community based organization hired to process and review the applications to troubleshoot any issues.”
More than 1,500 applicants have been approved since the application launched in late October, Hester added. The $40 million fund is expected to help as many as 30,000 families.
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