New Jersey would spend $35 million to provide up to $1,000 in cash assistance to immigrants who use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number if new legislation makes it into law. Many of those immigrants are in the country illegally.

The bill – S2480/A4171 – would require the state Department of the Treasury to issue a one-time payment to ITIN filers, prioritizing families with children. Payments would be $1,000 to taxpayers who listed at least one dependent child on their most recent tax return, $700 for married filers without a dependent child and $500 for other taxpayers.

It’s seen as a way to financially assist people who aren’t eligible for state unemployment benefits, the additional $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits or the $1,200 federal coronavirus stimulus payments because of their immigration status.

“There’s a whole group of New Jerseyans that pay taxes – up to $1 billion in taxes, federal taxes, and $600 billion in taxes to the state budget – who have access to zero one of these programs,” said state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex. “They were not included in the federal program. They can’t file for any benefits from their unemployment offices.”

“We started with a small number. We have around 140,000 ITIN New Jerseyans in the state. And this bill would only help around a third of those,” Ruiz said. “But at least we in the Legislature are having that conversation.”

Bill sponsors say California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington have taken steps to provide financial assistance for ITIN filers and want New Jersey to be next, despite its financial challenges, including a $10 billion projected revenue shortfall over through June 2021.

“If people are not willing to be honest with each other about what we look like, what we do and who we are and how we’re going to create policy – and we have to stop using the financial infrastructure as an excuse,” Ruiz said.

Gov. Phil Murphy has said he would consider coronavirus aid for immigrants who aren't legal residents but didn't commit to approving it, citing the state's precarious finances. He has vetoed other recent bills that required supplemental appropriations.

Since 1996, the Internal Revenue Service has issued ITINs to taxpayers and dependents who aren’t eligible for Social Security numbers so they can pay federal taxes regardless of their immigration status. They can help people open interest-bearing bank accounts and provide proof of residency.

Roberto Sanchez, who worked in a restaurant kitchen until the business closed down in March, said it’s important that all workers be included in government relief.

“I’ve been without work for more than 50 days. I have to pay for rent, for food and for medicine,” said Sanchez, a member of the immigrant rights group Make the Road New Jersey. “Every year I pay my taxes, and I contribute to this economy. Workers like me deserve to be included in aid.”

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