N.J. to add money to immigrant workers fund

By: - February 17, 2022 5:25 pm

Undocumented immigrants and activists gather in Trenton Dec. 9, 2021, to call attention to the issues they’re having with the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund. (Sophie Nieto-Muñoz | New Jersey Monitor)

The state is adding more money to the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund after receiving more than 20,000 applications, an amount that may deplete what was initially a $40 million pot of money.

With the application deadline still 11 days away, the state Department of Human Services said 20,500 applications have been submitted for the fund. It was expected to help roughly 20,000 families, residents who were ineligible for federal and state COVID-19 relief.

Gov. Phil Murphy said he will continue to allocate federal American Rescue Plan dollars to the fund to provide additional assistance to people who apply by the Feb. 28 deadline. The state did not specify how much it thinks will be added.

Without the additional money, the fund would have been depleted, and applications would have closed early.

Of the 20,500 applications submitted, around 4,000 have been approved, another 530 were found ineligible, and the rest are pending review or require additional documents. More than $9.2 million in funds have been approved, said DHS spokeswoman Eva Loayza-McBride.

Currently, New Jersey residents with annual incomes at or below $55,000 who can show they were excluded from federal stimulus payments and unemployment benefits are eligible for the fund. Largely, this includes undocumented immigrants and people recently released from prison.

The one-time payouts are $2,000 per person and up to $4,000 per household.

The DHS urges anyone eligible to upload documents as soon as possible, and people who aren’t sure if they qualify should still apply. As long as people start their applications by the deadline, they will remain in the queue for a payout.

Mariana Velasquez, a health care worker who got sick during the pandemic and had to take time off work, said she was able to access the fund to help her after “suffering for two years.”

Velasquez, who participated in a 24-day hunger strike in May 2021 to call for the fund’s creation, urged the state to provide “full funding so that no one is left behind from relief.”

Advocacy groups have said the money is enough for less than 10% of the state’s half-million undocumented immigrants, and they continue to call for the state to allocate $1 billion total. New York set aside $2.1 billion for its excluded workers fund.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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