Gov. Phil Murphy is trying to squeeze additional pandemic relief into his budget for those in the U.S. illegally.

His $49 billion budget proposal includes $53 million in direct payments to unauthorized immigrants who file and pay taxes using an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

Under the governor's plan, people filing taxes with an ITIN would automatically receive a $500 check if their income was below $46,000 for the year and did not receive relief through the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund.

That fund was closed last month after a surge of new applicants sought payments up to $4,000. Murphy has included an additional $20 million in his budget proposal to cover that demand.

Immigration advocates had demanded the state extend the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund, but efforts to do so stalled in the Legislature.

A closer than expected election last November has prompted many Democratic lawmakers to back away from Murphy's progressive agenda, fearing voter backlash when legislative elections are held in two years.

It is estimated by state treasury officials that as many as 100,000 undocumented New Jersey residents would qualify for the new program if it is approved by lawmakers.

The Legislature's Joint Budget Oversight Committee would first have to approve the appropriation to be included in the budget.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex, is a member of that committee and has been one of the most vocal advocates for providing more financial assistance for undocumented immigrants.

Ruiz led the effort to try and extend and expand the Excluded New Jerseyan's fund, but was rebuffed by her Democratic colleagues.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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