A coalition of Latino clergy called for passage of legislation introduced by state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz that would provide cash assistance for undocumented, tax-paying immigrants being excluded from the CARES Act.

The legislation (S-2480) introduced Monday by Ruiz and Sen. Nicolas Scutari would require the state Department of Treasury to issue a one-time payment to Individual Taxpayers Indentification Number (ITIN) filers, first prioritizing families with children.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service issues ITINs to taxpayers and their dependents who are ineligible to acquire a Social Security number, allowing them to pay federal taxes regardless of their immigration status. The bill appropriates $35 million for the program, which could help up to 35,000 residents. 

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“New Jersey’s undocumented immigrants contribute nearly $600 million in state and local taxes, in addition to their federal tax contributions, but still they are not receiving any help right now. They were intentionally carved out of the federal stimulus package and cannot access unemployment insurance, despite paying into it,” said Ruiz, a Newark Democrat whose 29th Legislative District has large pockets of undocumented residents.

“If we are going to discuss reopening New Jersey we must have an honest conversation about how this crisis has impacted our immigrant community," Ruiz said. "They work in every industry and in every region of our state. While it would only assist 25 percent of our ITIN filers, this relief legislation provides New Jersey the opportunity to step in and begin to help where the federal government has failed.”

The New Jersey Coalition of Latino Pastors and Ministers (NJCLPM) applauded Ruiz and Scutari for introducing the crucial legislation, saying that it concurs "with our biblical mandate to care for the stranger, poor and most vulnerable in our society."

"Immigrants are the backbone of our state’s economy," the coalition said in a prepared statement. "When we fail to assist undocumented taxpayers, we fail the entire state. Addressing the needs of New Jersey’s undocumented taxpaying population is both humane and oriented towards economic recovery."

Several cities and counties as well as states like California, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington have already taken steps to financially assist ITIN filers, the coalition said.

"With this legislation, we can do the same, ensuring that New Jersey’s undocumented taxpayers receive the monetary support they deserve," the coalition said. "Despite New Jersey’s undocumented taxpayers’ importance to the state economy, the federal government is denying them financial relief during this crisis. This legislation would change that. It would offer vital financial support to undocumented New Jersey residents who are shut out of the same social services they pay into." 

Starting May 18, the NJCLPM will begin assisting members of our immigrant community to file for their ITIN with the IRS. Those in need of assistance can call 201-355-6308.