More than 930,000 new unemployment claims have been filed since COVID-19 hit New Jersey in mid-March, state officials said Thursday.
For the week ending April 25, initial unemployment claims were 71,966, the lowest weekly total since the pandemic started. Nearly 622,000 people in New Jersey who have been laid off, furloughed, or had their hours cut are now collecting unemployment.
The number of weekly initial claims for the year now tops 1 million, a 524-percent jump from a year ago.
Roughly 200,000 applicants who have not yet received benefits are self-employed, independent contractors, or those who do not have enough recent earnings to qualify for regular unemployment benefits. Those workers likely are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a new program authorized by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The New Jersey Labor Department has begun processing claims for those applicants and will begin making payments starting on Friday.
“The department has worked hard over the past month to put the infrastructure in place to get this program up and running, despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19,” said New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “We know that people are anxious to receive these benefits — and we want to get benefits out the door as quickly as possible — but we had to build from scratch a process to determine eligibility, protect claimants’ personal information, prevent fraud, and distribute these new benefits.”
The weekly totals of new unemployment claims for each week since the virus hit are as follows:
|March 29-April 4||214,836|
About $1.4 billion in unemployment benefits have reached unemployed and furloughed New Jersey workers since the pandemic began. That figure includes $727 million in state unemployment benefits since mid-March and $690 million in supplemental payments distributed over the past three weeks.
The breakdown of weekly state payments is as follows:
|March 16-20||$47.4 million|
|March 23-27||$57.9 million|
|March 30-April 3||$89.8 million|
|April 6-10||$140.7 million|
|April 13-17||$179.7 million|
|April 20-24||$211.1 million|
The CARES Act also authorized a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits to workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of New Jersey unemployment. For more information on eligibility, visit: https://myunemployment.nj.gov/labor/myunemployment/apply/extensions/
The New Jersey Labor Department has posted guides for self-employed, independent contractors and others who might be eligible for PUA that explain the benefits and walk them through the application process. Those guides can be found here: https://bit.ly/2VRSZUK.
Information on certifying for unemployment can be found here: https://myunemployment.nj.gov/labor/myunemployment/schedule.shtml
People collecting unemployment are also receiving a $600 supplemental weekly benefit through the end of July. Those payments arrive separately, after the regular unemployment payment.
Officials said about 92 percent of new unemployment applications are being filed online at myunemployment.nj.gov. Officials said claims continue to be backdated to ensure that no one loses a week of benefits, even if they have difficulty getting through.
Officials said anyone who refuses work or voluntarily quits a job is ineligible for unemployment.