Final deadline looming for applications for immigrant workers fund
Nearly 17,000 applications to the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund are still pending, and people have until Sept. 30 to submit necessary documents. (Danielle Richards for New Jersey Monitor)
Three days before the state shuts down its program aimed at helping residents excluded from pandemic-era benefits, state officials say roughly 17,000 applicants have not submitted all the necessary documentation, putting them at risk of receiving nothing.
The figure represents nearly half of the 35,000 residents who applied to the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund, which requires documented proof that applicants were shut out of pandemic relief like stimulus checks and unemployment benefits, said Eva Loyaza McBride, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services.
Six community organizations are working with the state to approve applications to the program, which launched in October. With the deadline quickly approaching, some activists are calling for the state to allow more time for applicants to submit paperwork, pointing to “limited public awareness” that will lead to “missed opportunities.”
“This is a question of due process for our most vulnerable community members. The state promised us that every eligible applicant will receive their relief check, so it must ensure everyone is aware of the new deadline and has the opportunity to obtain an appointment and ask questions with adequate language access support,” said Laura Bustamante and Rosanna Aran of the Excluded NJ Coalition.
Individual applicants can claim up to $2,000, and families can claim up to $4,000.
The Excluded New Jerseyans Fund launched after months of protests, campouts at the Statehouse, rallies, and a three-week hunger strike by undocumented residents and activists. Gov. Phil Murphy announced in May 2021 that he would set aside $40 million for the fund, then boosted that to $60 million using money from the American Rescue Plan.
It was plagued with issues at the start — documents were requested that were unnecessary, people who were eligible were denied, money took months to be doled out, and there was hesitancy among the immigrant community to apply.
Since the launch, about 18,000 workers have received their funds, amounting to more than $40 million, Loyaza-McBride said. Roughly 400 applicants were found to be ineligible and another 2,000 are inactive, which means their application was withdrawn or they failed to respond to requests for information, said Loayza-McBride.
All of the applicants whose status is pending received notifications about what is missing from their applications, she added.
Along with proving they were shut out of unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, applicants need to prove they live in the state, are 18 years or older, and earn $55,000 or less.
Immigrant advocates continue to urge state officials to bring the fund to $1 billion in order to help all residents who were excluded from federal and state pandemic relief. Murphy in his March budget address proposed a $53 million program for taxpaying undocumented immigrants, but it was ultimately excluded from this year’s spending plan.
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