New unemployment claims filed in New Jersey since mid-March have surpassed 1 million, a number officials say us an all-time record for the state.
In the seven weeks since COVID-19 hit New Jersey, 1,018,785 unemployment claims have been filed.
Officials said more than 642,000 residents are now receiving unemployment benefits in the state. An additional 72,000 federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims from independent contractors and self-employed residents were processed last week. The state has created online guides to walk people through the weekly PUA certification process. Certifying for PUA benefits each week is required by federal law. Officials said the certification questions have been an obstacle for tens of thousands of residents who have answered a question incorrectly and had their payments delayed.
Certification tips can be found online on the New Jersey Department of Labor website.
“Our process is one we are required to follow to protect claimants, prevent fraud, protect the trust fund’s solvency and safeguard New Jersey businesses. It’s heartbreaking to hear tens of thousands of payments held up because of an unintentional certification mistake,” New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said. “It’s what motivates us to put the most useful information out there for our customers, and to make sure every eligible claimant collects their benefits as quickly as possible.”
For the week ending May 2, initial unemployment claims were 88,326. The weekly totals of new unemployment claims since the virus hit are as follows:
|March 29-April 4
|April 26-May 2
Since mid-March, the state has distributed about $1.9 billion in benefits, including $900 million in state unemployment payments. A total of $989 million in supplemental payments has been distributed over the past four weeks.
The breakdown of weekly state payments is as follows:
|March 30-April 3
|April 27-May 1
Last week marked the start of processing payments for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a new federal program authorized by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These benefits are for self-employed, independent contractors, and those who do not have enough recent earnings to qualify for regular unemployment benefits.
The CARES Act also authorized a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits to workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of New Jersey unemployment. Those benefits are expected to start being offered May 18 for those who exhausted their benefits since last July. For more information on eligibility,view extension guidelines on the state’s website.
The 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 at the Department of Labor’s online portal.
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. A separate application is not required.
About 91 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.
Anyone who refuses work or voluntarily quits a job is ineligible for unemployment.