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New Jersey’s Undocumented Immigrant Relief Funds Running Out

The state’s $40 million fund will likely be spent ahead of the Feb. 28 deadline due to the high number of applications. In fact, if all 13,900 applications are approved, the funds will be encumbered.

(TNS) — New Jersey’s coronavirus pandemic relief program for undocumented immigrants has received so many applications, the $40 million fund likely will be spent before the Feb. 28 deadline, acting state Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman announced Thursday.

The Excluded New Jerseyans Fund paid out $9.2 million in cash benefits to 4,000 approved applicants as of Wednesday, Human Services spokesman Eva Loayza-McBride told NJ Advance Media before Thursday’s announcement.

But if all 13,900 pending applications are approved, the $40 million would be encumbered, Loayza-McBride said Thursday.

The program offers a one-time $2,000 check for individuals and $4,000 for families who earn less than $55,000.

The fund benefits individuals who entered the country illegally, people recently leaving incarceration and homeless people — populations that do not qualify for unemployment or stimulus checks. Many pay taxes and faced lay-offs, and had to choose between going to work sick or living without income.

The state will continue accepting applications through Monday, Feb. 28, the announcement said.

“We understand that applicants may need time to gather required documentation,” state Office of New Americans Director Johanna Calle said in the announcement. “Applicants are able to submit documents through the online portal at any time.

“During this time, their application is pending while they collect documents needed to demonstrate eligibility,” Calle continued. “This may prolong the time it takes for their application to be reviewed but people should know that if their application is approved, they will receive their benefits.”

To date, 530 applications have been denied, Loayza-McBride said.

How much beyond the $40 million in pandemic relief Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration is willing to make available is not clear. A spokeswoman for Murphy declined to comment Thursday night.

The program got off to a slow and bumpy start after it was announced in October.

Immigrants’ rights organizations had complained the state poorly promoted the program. They said people found the application process too cumbersome to complete before the Dec. 31 deadline. The program disbursed only $6 million, and the state used the remaining $34 million for other COVID expenses.

But after public outcry from the state Legislative Latino Caucus and other groups, Murphy and Adelman announced on Jan. 27 they had found another pot of federal aid from the American Rescue Plan to meet the original $40 million commitment. The state also simplified the application process by eliminating the requirement that people must document how the pandemic affected them financially.

“Just two weeks after restoring the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund, applications have surged and $40 million of essential relief will go to communities in desperate need of assistance,” ACLU-NJ Policy Director Sarah Fajardo said in the joint press release with the state. “We applaud the Murphy administration for restoring the Fund and simplifying the application process — these efforts worked, and thousands will benefit.”

“But $40 million is not enough to support all 500,000 New Jerseyans ineligible for federal aid,” Fajardo added. “We urge the New Jersey Legislature to build upon this success and allocate increased funds to ensure that all excluded communities can access relief and move our state toward true recovery.”

Christian Estevez, president of the Latino Action Network, thanked the state for “keeping this program open through the end of the month so we can continue helping families and individuals in need.”

More information about the program may be found at

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