Statement from Office of New Americans Director Johanna Calle:
The Excluded NJ 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. The program launched in late October and as of today the demand for the program is around $17 million. The Program has been funded with a combination of Coronavirus Relief Funds which expired on by Dec. 31st 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, there are available funds in the program to adequately fund eligible applications until January 31. Anyone who has applied for the ENJF and has been 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 to review applications and determine eligibility and provide program outreach, education and support. The scope of work was clearly laid out on the RFP,
a voluntary prospective bidder presentation and a question and answer period were available to ensure prospective vendors understood the request. The organizations who submitted proposals were selected in part because they certified that they have the capacity and capability to do this work. Under the RFP, these organizations also had the option to subgrant or partner with other agencies to help manage the program, if needed. Every organization that received an award provided budgets outlining resources needed to fulfill these responsibilities, including outreach and support of applicants.
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.
The Department has also provided additional resources and outreach efforts, including:
- Program materials, including a flyer in 12 languages, shared with county and local social services providers, including organizations serving immigrants, refugee agencies, faith based organizations and libraries. Various flyers here: https://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/excludednjfund/about/whatis/index.shtml
- Application video tutorial and promo video in English and Spanish https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLspiLS805IydRvLAiTwVCzqywj6DUmPcushared through social media
- Posting social media graphics about the fund regularly.
- Outreach toolkits sent to the urban mayors and legislative offices
- Presented at a library association and hosted a webinar for social services providers looking to assist their community members in the application process and help with disseminating program information
- Press releases and numerous media interviews, including multiple interviews with Spanish-language media, including Telemundo, Univision and Reporte Hispano.
- Weekly outreach to applicants whose applications have expired or are missing information through emails and phone calls from DHS staff.
- Required documents one pager in English and Spanish https://nj.gov/humanservices/excludednjfund/apply/documents/
- Regularly update the common questions on the website https://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/excludednjfund/faqs/, which has multi-language functionality.
Note: DHS did not reallocate the remaining $34 million in CARES funding. Please refer to the Governor’s Office for any additional questions about the remaining CARES funds.