New Jerseyans who burnt through their jobless benefits leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic will soon hear whether they’re eligible for a 13-week federal extension, the state labor department announced on Tuesday.
The certification process will continue for the next several weeks, the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development said.
Workers who’ve already gone through their 24 weeks of benefits, or are close to that point, have been nervously waiting for guidance on whether new benefits are forthcoming.
“Many of these workers were unemployed before the pandemic began, and the current health crisis has obviously made their job search exponentially more difficult,” Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said in a Tuesday statement.
Those benefits are part of the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, a federal jobless aid program.
That extension, which includes an added $660 a week in unemployment benefits, was part of the landmark federal spending bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Also known as the CARES Act, it was passed with the goal of offering a lifeline to the tens of millions of Americans financially hit because of the outbreak.
Claimants were notified via email and text message starting May 17 as to whether they would be eligible to qualify for those benefits, and payments will arrive two days after self-certification.
Under the PEUC program, workers would be automatically eligible, and need not do anything except wait for notification from the NJDOL, if they:
- Filed for unemployment after July 8, 2018,
- Did not work since the dates between 2018 and 2020 that they collected unemployment,
- And exhausted their balance or their benefit year ended on their most recent claim.
Workers who filed after July 8, 2018, but worked during that year or in 2019, should file a new claim.
Those who filed after July 1, 2019 but have not gone through all their unemployment benefits should reopen their claim to certify for benefits again.
The number of jobless claimants in New Jersey pushed past 1 million earlier this month. And the labor department predicts that by mid-June it will be “processing more than 1 million unemployment claims per week.”
The state’s latest unemployment data is slated to be released on May 21, according to the New Jersey labor department website.
New Jersey labor officials last week said they paid out $2.7 billion in jobless benefits. That includes $1.1 billion from the state’s unemployment fund, and nearly $1.5 billion from outside payments from the federal government, namely the added $600 a week.
Many industries have taken a hit, either because they have been ordered to cease operations, or because consumers have opted not to spend their money at those places. The hardest-hit workers include those formerly employed at casinos, retail, food service, restaurants and airlines, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Freelancers and gig workers are finally being issued their unemployment benefits, under federal jobless benefits known as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. The state said Tuesday that it paid out 140,000 PUA benefits.