$40M aid for unauthorized immigrants in NJ not enough, group says
The governor's plan to provide ten of millions in cash relief to taxpayers left out of pandemic stimulus programs has been called “woefully insufficient” by an immigrants right group in the state.
Make the Road New Jersey said there's a pressing need to address more than a year without relief for nearly a half-million people, as “6.5% of New Jersey’s workforce is undocumented and there are more than 209,000 undocumented essential workers.”
Funding from a round of federal stimulus money was being looked at as a potential source, Gov. Phil Murphy had said when asked about it at the state briefing on Wednesday.
“We're looking at all the above. CRF, more likely ARP money, American Rescue Plan money, and again, it's because we want to do right by every single human being,” he continued.
CRF is Coronavirus Relief Fund, which was received under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
However, $40 million in remaining CARES funds mentioned by a Murphy administration member on a call with advocates this week was not received well, Politico reported.
That would amount to just under $100 for each taxpaying worker who so far has been ineligible for relief, said members of Make the Road New Jersey and New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, including on the groups' Twitter accounts.
“These workers contribute more than a billion in federal taxes and nearly $600 million in state and local taxes annually. They have contributed $1.3 billion in unemployment taxes over the past ten years to our state’s coffers, but they cannot access a penny in aid," Make the Road NJ continued.
“New Jersey must provide real aid to excluded workers, including $2,000 direct cash payments to immigrants left behind from federal relief and $600 weekly wage replacement to workers that are ineligible for unemployment due to their immigration status,” the group also said.
Advocates noted that New York, Oregon, California, and Colorado were among states that have created funds for excluded workers.
“Unless we care for all of us in the state, not some of us are not most of us, but all of us, unless we bring all of us along, we will not find our way through this challenging journey,” Murphy also said, noting that his administration had met with advocates remotely on Tuesday.
He also referred to meetings with leaders in both the state Assembly and Senate and said that Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, in particular was passionate about “trying to find legislative or other means by which we can get money to the undocumented population.”
Ruiz was among the prime sponsors of legislation introduced in May 2020, which had called for roughly $35 million as a one-time payment program for aid for certain eligible taxpayers.
That bill was viewed as a decent start, a year ago, according to New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ) Campaign Strategist, Katy Sastre. She called the governor’s unofficial proposal for $40 million in such relief this week “disappointing.”
She said that these are communities that “really kept the state running in one of the hardest years on record,” as many undocumented workers are in fields that are considered essential.
Sastre said a full year later, they’re making difficult decisions about what necessities to forgo, as they have no access to any safety net social programs.
Last week, the New York state legislature approved a $2.1 billion fund to provide income replacement to workers left behind from aid due to their status.
Under that plan, undocumented workers across the Hudson River might be eligible to receive up to $15,600, equal to $300 per week for the last year. In order to qualify, as reported by the New York Times, they must prove that they were state residents, ineligible for federal unemployment benefits and lost income due to the pandemic.
Oregon has continued to add to its state Worker Relief Fund, as of early April at more than $70 million, $30 million of which the state contributed in January, as reported by Portland Business Journal. Workers not eligible for unemployment have been receiving checks for roughly $1,700 under Oregon's program.
In California's case, the program was a $75 million cash assistance program announced in April 2020, which provided one-time cash benefits of $500 to "undocumented Californians impacted by COVID-19 who are ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits and disaster relief, including the CARES Act, due to their immigration status."
It was earmarked for roughly 150,000 adults, with a cap of $1,000 per household on a first-come, first-served basis.
Colorado also created its program last year, the Left Behind Workers Fund, which as of late December had distributed more than $9 million, as direct cash grants of $1,000 to more than 9,000 people.
“Governor Murphy likes to talk about his undocumented brothers and sisters,” Sastre continued, “this doesn’t feel like that kind of relationship. You take care of your family.”