Some of New Jersey’s undocumented immigrants will be eligible for stimulus payments of up to $1,000 supplied through a $40 million pandemic aid fund, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday.
“COVID-19 has created unimaginable challenges for our economy over the past year,” Murphy said in a statement. “As we emerge from this pandemic, we need to make targeted investments in both our small businesses and our workforce to lay the foundation for a stronger and fairer future that works for everyone.”
Qualifying applicants can receive up to $2,000 per household so long as their income does not exceed $55,000 and they can demonstrate economic hardship related to the pandemic.
The moneys are made available through the Coronavirus Relief Funds. They can be paid to New Jerseyans who were ineligible for previous assistance, including undocumented individuals.
Applicants need not have an individual taxpayer identification number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service.
Over the past month, immigration activists have called on state officials to extend pandemic aid to New Jersey’s undocumented residents, most of whom were ineligible for stimulus payments under COVID-19 relief bills passed last month and last year.
Some immigrants have engaged hunger strike for nearly a month ahead of the announcement, a move Murphy lamented during multiple virus briefings in March and April.
The announcement, made on a Friday afternoon ahead of a holiday weekend, could prove a political vulnerability. Republicans have attacked Murphy for similar measures in the past, and national Republican groups launched a similar offensive when Murphy signaled openness to direct payments to undocumented immigrants last month.
Immigration activists have warned the money might not be enough, threatening to compound the politically sensitive issue as the governor prepares to move into the post-primary stretch of his re-election bid.
The news was coupled with an announcement of an additional $235 million in state aid to small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
The bulk of those funds, $120 million, will go to microbusinesses, while $20 million has been set aside for bars and restaurants.
The new aid package could prove a political boon to Democrats, who’ve given sponsorships to some of their more vulnerable members, including State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) and Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield), John Armato (D-Buena), Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) and Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick).
Zwicker and Mazzeo are running for State Senate.
Democrats in the 38th district, State Sen. Joe Lagana (D-Paramus), Assemblywoman Lisa Swain (D-Fair Lawn) and Assemblyman Chris Tully (D-Bergenfield) were also given sponsorships, signaling Democrats see vulnerability there.