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Excluded NJ Fund, NJ Department of Human Services

Excluded NJ Fund removes COVID impact as eligibility requirement, expanding accessibility 

The Department of Human Services has removed COVID impact as an eligibility requirement for the Excluded NJ Fund and extends the application period to the end of February.

Last month, Latinas in Business President and CEO, Susana G Baumann spoke to Elisa Neira, Deputy Commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Human Services, about the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund. 

The ENJF program provides a one-time, direct cash benefit to eligible low-income households that were excluded from federal stimulus checks and pandemic-related unemployment assistance. This includes undocumented individuals, residents returning from the justice system and any other individuals otherwise excluded from pandemic-related financial help.

Since our conversation with Elisa, the potential payouts for the Excluded New Jerseyans cash-assistance program have reached the $40 million mark and the program will continue accepting applications through the previously announced February 28, 2022 application deadline. 

Sarah Adelman, Acting Commissioner (Photo source: nj.gov)

Acting Commissioner Adelman announced that Governor Phil Murphy will allocate American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to provide assistance to eligible applicants who apply by the end of the month.

The Governor allocated additional ARP funds last month to restore the program to $40 million so more eligible people could apply. The Department also removed COVID impact as an eligibility requirement following revised federal allowances, and extended the application period to the end of February.

“This fund provides a much needed financial boost to families who were previously excluded from federal assistance,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “By committing this additional funding, we are making sure eligible families can continue to apply through the end of the month, and that those whose applications are approved will receive their benefits.”

“We are grateful for the Governor’s continued support of this program which has already helped thousands of New Jerseyans who were left out of federal pandemic assistance,” said Acting Commissioner Adelman. “Interested individuals should check their eligibility and apply at ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov. For those who need help, free application assistance is available.”

The ENJF application period ends on February 28.  Applicants who submit an application but do not include required documents by the deadline will be able to provide additional documents to demonstrate eligibility after the deadline. The application is available in English and Spanish and online resources in multiple languages can be found on the website.

“The program is now accessible to even more New Jerseyans who were left out of other relief. We want to make sure the community is aware that there is still time to apply for the program.  And if you have already applied, we encourage you to check the status of your application online and follow the next steps to complete your application such as uploading eligibility documents,” said Deputy Commissioner Elisa Neira

Watch the webcast: NJ Office of New Americans talks about the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund

The  one-time, direct cash benefit amounts are $2,000 per eligible individual and a maximum of $4,000 per household. Individuals with annual household incomes at or below $55,000, who live in New Jersey, are over 18 years of age and were excluded from federal COVID stimulus payments and pandemic unemployment assistance can apply to the ENJF without demonstrating COVID-related impacts. Proof of COVID impact is no longer required.

Image Source: NJ Office of New Americans.

Various Latinx organizations are applauding these changes that now make the fund accessible to more people, especially immigrant populations who have struggled to receive aid during the pandemic. 

“The Latino Action Network thanks Governor Murphy for simplifying the application for the Excluded New Jerseyans fund and ensuring that more people could take part in this critical program,” said Christian Estevez, President of the Latino Action Network. “By reaching $40 million, we have taken a big first step in addressing a long-standing, previously unmet need in the community. I look forward to the Department of Human Services and Murphy Administration keeping this program open through the end of the month so we can continue helping families and individuals in need. The Latino Action Network stands ready to work with the Governor and the legislature to find ways to continue helping those in need through the end of this month and beyond.”

“LUPE FUND commends Governor Murphy and his administration on allotting additional funds to the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund,” said Iveth Mosquera, LUPE Fund President. “This is an acknowledgment and step forward for all essential workers who have risked their lives during the pandemic, and continue to be the backbone of our communities. This is a true representation of working towards a stronger and fairer New Jersey.” 

“The work of DHS simplifying the application process is commendable and shows the great need for continued relief for immigrant workers. Still, we know that hundreds of thousands of New Jersey families will still need additional aid. We are committed to work alongside the Governor and the legislature to ensure no one in New Jersey is left behind. We cannot fully recover as a state until everyone has recovered,” said a statement from Latina Civic Action. 

For more information on the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund and to apply, visit: ExcludedNJFund.nj.gov

Office of New Americans, Elisa Neira,

Office of New Americans Elisa Neira speaks on NJ’s immigrant aid programs and initiatives 

Latinas in Business President and CEO Susana G Bauman recently spoke with Elisa Neira who serves as the Deputy Commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Human Services as part of a new webcast series. 

As Deputy Commissioner, Elisa Neira oversees the Division of Family Development, the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Division of Disability Services, and the Office of New Americans. 

Elisa discussed a few of the ways the New Jersey Department of Human Services is working to help immigrants in the state of New Jersey through resources, programs, and the formation of the Office New Americans (ONA). 

The ONA seeks to increase accessibility to State programs available to new Americans, including those who speak languages other than English, through outreach and education and serves as a resource for other state agencies to amplify education and outreach on state initiatives and programs.

Elisa Neira, Deputy Commissioner (Photo source)

“The governor tasked us to establish an Office of New Americans with the purpose of really identifying state solutions as to how immigrants can participate and benefit from the many resources in our state, how can we look at what barriers exist for people who may be who can benefit from some of the state resources but are not aware of them, or for whatever reason, may not understand eligibility, for example,” said Elisa.  

As a top gateway state receiving new immigrants every year, New Jersey is one of the most diverse states with a large multicultural population. About a quarter of New Jersey’s population of 10 million are foreign-born immigrants. The hopes are to reach this diverse population and aid them in attaining accessible government resources and services. 

“We have a very diverse population, which means that we’re diverse, culturally, and also linguistically. The language access needs in our state are really great.” 

Addressing these cultural and linguistic barriers is crucial to making resources and programs accessible. Many immigrants miss opportunities due to barriers and miscommunication. ONA hopes to improve access to social services, workforce development and employment services, and legal services for immigrants by addressing these barriers.

“We’ve done a lot of work in understanding the demographics and where the gaps are in getting information to people. One of our goals is really to look at language access and figure out how we can develop plans to really improve the communication that we have with residents of our state who are non-English speakers.”  

Listen to the whole conversation 

Excluded New Jerseyans Fund 

In her talk with Susana, Elisa spoke on one Department of Human Services program: the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund. This fund is a federally funded COVID relief program available to those who were excluded from federal COVID relief and are in households with incomes of $55,000 or less impacted by COVID-19.  

We were able to create this fund specifically for those individuals in our communities who, for several reasons, were not eligible for the federal stimulus checks that the many Americans were able to have during a time where maybe their income was reduced, or they lost income or became ill because of COVID,” said Elisa. 

Image Source: NJ Office of New Americans.

The program, which launched in late October, has been funded with a combination of Coronavirus Relief Funds, which expired on December 31, and American Rescue Plan funds, which continue to be available. The ARP funds allocated made it possible for the program to continue to accept applications after December 31. Currently, the program has available funds to fund eligible applications until January 31 adequately. Anyone who has applied for the ENJF and approved should know that they will receive their benefits. Benefit payments go out to approved applicants on a weekly basis.

The Department hired six community-based organizations (CBOs) to review applications, determine eligibility and provide program outreach, education, and support.  

The CBOs were tasked specifically with processing applications, which included following up with applicants needing more information to complete their applications and reach an eligibility determination. Documentation demonstrating COVID-impact was required because of specific federal parameters placed on the use of CRF funds. The Department provided training, materials, and resources for the reviewers under contract and met with them daily/weekly to support their application review process. 

Additionally, advocates for this program were integral to the design and administration of the program and their implementation recommendations were considered from the very beginning. Given the visibility of this program, several stakeholders and other service providers across the state of New Jersey have also done their own independent outreach and support for their clients even if they were not a part of the RFP process as they found it important to support members of their communities.  

“So many New Jerseyans, particularly undocumented individuals, were not eligible for these federal stimulus checks. They were also not eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance. So this fund is specifically to help those households, those families, those parents who were impacted by COVID, but did not receive these other federal aid that was available to other people. 

It’s a one time assistance between 1000 to $2,000. The applications are open. The information is available on our website ExcludedNJfund.nj.gov. And we’re really encouraging people who meet this criteria to put in an application so we can get them the help that they need.” 

Additional Exclude NJ resources: 

Exclude NJ flyers 

Application video tutorial in English and Spanish 

Required documents in English and Spanish 

Excluded NJ FAQs 

In a statement from Office of New Americans Director Johanna Calle clarified that DHS did not reallocate the remaining $34 million in CARES funding. Individuals are encouraged to refer to the Governor’s Office with additional questions regarding the remaining funds. Latinas in Business will follow up on this news.