Progressive groups and immigrant activists have called on the governor to allocate $1 billion for immigrants and their families excluded from federal pandemic aid. (Danielle Richards for New Jersey Monitor)
About 13,000 people have been awarded money from a fund that launched eight months ago aimed at helping undocumented immigrants, their families, and others who were excluded from federal pandemic aid, according to the state agency overseeing the fund.
That represents more than $30 million in funds, about half of the money set aside for the Excluded New Jersyans Fund, said Eva Loayza-McBride, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services. Under the program, households can receive up to $4,000, while single applicants are eligible for $2,000 checks.
But 22,000 applications for aid still await review from community organizations or need more documents from applicants to be approved, Loayza-McBride said. About 330 applicants have been denied, she said.
Before the application period for the fund closed in February, Gov. Phil Murphy said applications filed before the deadline would be honored even if all required documents were not submitted in time, leading to a flood of 3,000 applications filed in the final days before the program closed.
Murphy announced the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund in May 2021 and initially set aside $40 million for it. Since then, progressive groups and immigrant activists have called on the governor to dramatically increase the amount of money, saying they want $1 billion to go to immigrants and their families who were excluded from pandemic relief or worked throughout the pandemic without hazard pay.
After the deluge of applications in February, Murphy moved to transfer two batches of $10 million to the fund, bringing the pot of money to $60 million.
Groups rallied at the Statehouse in Trenton Thursday on Immigrant Heritage Day, in part to call on lawmakers and Murphy to spend more money helping the immigrant community. The state has billions in unexpected revenue and $3 billion in unspent federal aid, more than enough funds, they say, to include more undocumented immigrants in the economic recovery from the pandemic.
Murphy is facing heat from Republicans who have criticized him over what they say are improper transfers of $20 million to the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund. NJ.com reported the Office of Legislative Services said the transfers “appear to violate the rules established” in the current budget. The rules give the Murphy administration a total of $200 million in federal funds to dole out without legislative approval, but it cannot transfer more than $10 million for each eligible program.
Alyana Alfaro, spokeswoman for the governor, said each allocation from the $200 million is set aside in increments of $10 million or less, “in accordance with the administration’s interpretation of budget language.”
“The Excluded New Jerseyans Fund has been expanded through a series of programmatic phases, each of which has been announced publicly,” Alfaro said.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.