You may have heard the state’s Excluded New Jerseyans Fund is setting aside $40 million to help unauthorized immigrants living in the Garden State illegally who have suffered an economic hardship during the pandemic and have not been able to collect unemployment or receive stimulus payments.

The Fund is also offering payments of up to $2,000 for convicted criminals released from prison and their families, and others who have been excluded from receiving financial help.

Some New Jersey lawmakers are not exactly thrilled by the news.

Assemblyman Hal Wirths, R-Sussex said he was shocked after learning about the assistance plan.

“It’s really outrageous to be using hard-earned taxpayers' money to give to illegals and criminals,” he said.

Wirths, who served as the state Labor Commissioner for several years under former Gov. Chris Christie, said there will be no way to control who shows up for a check and the entire program should be scrapped.

“I just think it’s a slap in the face to all the hard-working people that are struggling in New Jersey to pay their bills, we constantly rate as one of the highest, if not the highest taxed state in the nation on every category," he said.

Sara Cullinane, the director of Make The Road New Jersey, said we cannot rebuild as a state if we leave half a million people behind, including “essential workers, people who put their bodies on the line to make sure that the rest of us could stay home and shelter in place during the worst months of the pandemic.”

She stressed most New Jerseyans received stimulus checks or could collect unemployment but “if you are an undocumented immigrant and you lost your job you wouldn’t be eligible for a penny in unemployment and you wouldn’t be able to get a single dollar in stimulus payments.”

Assemblyman Parker Space, R-Sussex, believes the creation of this kind of fund is totally ridiculous.

“There are so many good, hard-working families in the state of New Jersey that need help, and here we’re giving it to people who literally come across the border, we’re handing them taxpayers' money. I mean it’s a bunch of crap if you ask me,” he said.

“It’s rolling out the red carpet here in the state of New Jersey for criminals and for illegals," he added. "We have to take care of our people first.”

Cullinane argued that undocumented immigrants in New Jersey “pay $600 million every year into our state and local taxes, they pay $1 billion in unemployment taxes, yet they’re not able to reap a single dollar.”

“That means people who were working as essential workers, if they got sick or they lost their job, they had to wait on bread lines, they faced eviction because they were left behind from aid. No one can be expected to shoulder and weather an entire pandemic without a penny in aid.”

Wirths said distributing this kind of assistance is in one way, condoning breaking the law “and like encouraging people to not only come here and not be documented, but then to reward them is really outrageous.”

Space stressed America is a land made up of immigrants and “if they come through the front door, in my opinion, you’re more than welcome, you go through the entire process and become a U.S. citizen. But if not, we’re not taking care of all these folks.

Cullinane said the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund is about making sure “everyone can participate in our recovery, and it’s a small but important step towards building a more just recovery here in New Jersey.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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