NJ expands stimulus fund for immigrants who were in U.S. illegally
New Jersey is extending and expanding a program to pay stimulus money to immigrants who did not qualify for other stimulus programs or unemployment benefits because they were not in the country legally.
The New Jersey Department of Human Services announced the state was putting another $10 million into the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund (ENJF) and will continue taking applications for aid into 2022. The money is coming from federal stimulus that has been stowed in the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund.
At the same time, DHS offered a reminder that the total benefits per individual and per family have increased.
Eligible individuals can receive $2,000, to a maximum of $4,000 per family.
To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate:
- Exclusion from both federal stimulus checks and COVID related unemployment assistance
- Household COVID Impact
- Household income that is at or below $55,000
- Residency, Identity, Age
The state originally funded the ENJF with $40 million dollars, which was a fraction of the $1 billion immigrant rights advocates had been demanding.
The issue of providing aid to immigrants without legal status was a contentious issue during budget negotiations. Members of the Latino Legislative Caucus tried to include over $900 million in aid for unauthorized immigrants in the budget, but the effort did not have the support of Gov. Phil Murphy or legislative leaders.
According to the group Make the Road New Jersey, 10.7 million immigrants were not eligible for federal stimulus and could not file unemployment claims because of their status and/or the lack of a Social Security number.
While immigrant rights groups welcome the expansion of the program, they claim the state has made it too difficult for undocumented families to prove eligibility.
The state launched a web portal in October to begin taking applications, but advocates say the site has been plagued by technical problems and is difficult to navigate for individuals who are not computer literate or may not be able to read or write.
Office of New American Director Johanna Calle said in a statement, “There are many ways to demonstrate eligibility and applicants are only required to provide one document per category. Those unable to provide a required document could still be eligible and should still apply for the Fund.”
The state is currently reviewing over 8,000 applications and has already approved 1,500 individuals and families for the stimulus payments, according to the Asbury Park Press.