N.J. coronavirus recovery: Undocumented workers ask for relief funds; new signature rule for primary

After 100 days of unemployment for undocumented immigrants and their children who are ineligible for government aid, #100DaysWithNoRelief takes action for relief funds.

New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton

New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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New Jersey reported 330 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 167,703. There were 47 new deaths reported from the virus, raising the toll to 12,769.

Sixty-four people were admitted to hospitals across the state, raising the total number of hospitalizations to 1,352, according to the state hospital association; 358 patients are in intensive care.

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Undocumented workers say they’re left out of recovery relief

Wednesday marks 100 days since Gov. Phil Murphy shut down the state of New Jersey due to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It also marks 100 days of unemployment for many across the state, including hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented workers pay federal, state and local taxes but remain ineligible for coronavirus relief funds. NJ Policy Perspective estimates undocumented immigrants in New Jersey pay almost $600 million in state and local taxes. In addition to not qualifying for unemployment checks, they are also ineligible for TANF and SNAP benefits.

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A group of undocumented New Jersey residents are uniting behind the hashtag #100DaysNoRelief, calling for a disaster relief fund specifically for undocumented families. The group is asking for weekly cash payments of $600 and stimulus payments to taxpayers.

The group is also supporting a bill from state senators Teresa Ruiz and Nicholas Scutari that would provide financial assistance to Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) users. An ITIN is a tax processing number issued to people who are not eligible for a Social Security number. The proposed assistance would come through a one-time payment that prioritizes families with children.

In a Facebook livestream Wednesday morning, New Jersey Policy Perspective’s Vineeta Kapahi joined a representative from Make the Road NJ to discuss the Policy Perspective’s new report on the state’s economy. “It’s really important to address these inequities now because immigrants are especially vulnerable to the health and economic consequences of COVID-19,” said Kapahi.

The livestream also visited 10 cities across New Jersey, including Elizabeth, Princeton and Camden, where members of the group hosted rallies for disaster relief. A rally at noon at the State House in Trenton concluded the morning of action.

Guidance for in-person instruction at college and universities

The New Jersey Department of Higher Education Secretary Zakiya Smith Ellis announced guidance for resuming in-person instruction at colleges and universities. On July 1, in-person clinical, lab, and hands-on programming at institutes of higher education may restart. Career and training schools may also reopen on July 1.

Colleges and universities must submit their reopening plans to the Department of Higher Education at least 14 days before any staff or students return. “We are aiming to strike a balance between responsible public health considerations and the safe resumption of activities through a staged framework that will slowly and deliberately reinvigorate campus’ collaborative culture across the state,” said Smith Ellis.

Schools must follow guidelines for social distancing, sanitizing equipment and materials, hand washing as well as accommodating individuals with symptoms or a positive coronavirus diagnosis. Those students and faculty with elevated health risks must be given the opportunity to learn or teach virtually. Colleges and universities should recommend wearing masks in outdoor spaces as well as indoor, especially in locations where social distancing is not possible. Finally, institutions are also responsible for establishing their own testing processes.

Smith Ellis clarified that in-person instruction will be limited to labs or clinical rotations following state restrictions or outdoor instruction following social distancing guidelines. There is no set number of students allowed in a classroom, rather institutions must determine how to follow the state guidelines within their particular setting.

Students will be able return to on-campus housing but common areas must remain closed. Campus dining and transportation will need to follow state restrictions, while sports will follow conference guidelines.

Finally, Smith Ellis confirmed that colleges and universities may hold modified in-person ceremonies after July 6, but they must complete an online form confirming that their ceremony follows state guidelines.

New Jersey to establish new ballot signature match protocol for July 7 primary

The League of Women Voters (LWV) announced Wednesday that parties in LWV New Jersey v. Way agreed to a “notice and cure” process for mail-in ballots for the July 7 primary. Voters who cast their ballot by mail will be notified of any issues and offered the option to fix the problem. The agreement only applies to the July 7 primary, not subsequent elections.

This agreement is especially significant for “disabled, elderly, and language minority voters,” like plaintiff William M. Riggs, whose hand tremors brought on by Parkinson’s Disease make it difficult to have a consistent signature.

Last month, Gov. Murphy announced that mail-in ballots would be sent to all registered voters in the Garden State. As a result, a surge in mail-in ballots is expected for the delayed primary, which means that a surge of ballots would be subject to a signature match.

The agreement must still be accepted by the district court judge in Newark.

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