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New Jersey Unemployment Benefits: how long have they been extended and who will benefit?

New Jersey workers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits have been given an extension and can claim extra weeks of benefit from this week.

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New Jersey Unemployment Benefits: how long have they been extended and who will benefit?
Lee Jae Won REUTERS

Unemployed workers in New Jersey will be able to continue claiming state benefits for the next two and a half months after the state Labor Department announced changes to eligibility requirements – even if an individual has exhausted all of their benefit weeks. On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that will change requirements for claimants which effectively grants a 20-week extension of unemployment benefits starting from this week. Previously, benefits would run out after a maximum of 39 weeks – in a standard base year. The law will apply to unemployed workers who have exhausted the base 26 weeks of benefits plus the additional 13 weeks of CARES Act benefits - Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments which were due to be terminated 26 December. The new changes include increasing weekly payment amounts and doubling to 12 weeks the amount of time workers can collect family leave benefits.

Coronavirus crisis in New Jersey

The NJ Labor Department has doled out $19.7 billion in unemployment benefits since a state-wide curfew and stay-at-home order was put into place in March. The pandemic had a chronic effect on the economy, with over 15,000 unemployment applications filed on 16 March alone, when the curfew was put into effect. Claims hit a peak on 4 April with 214,836 new unemployment applications at the worst point of the crisis. In total, around 1.4 million New Jersey residents have received benefits as a result of the pandemic since 16 March, each given an average of $13,890 in benefits to compensate for lost income. 

The news that benefits will be extended for an additional 20 weeks will come as a boost for some 2,000 unemployed workers in New Jersey. People seeking the extension would have to have earned wages equivalent to 40 times their weekly benefit rate, and have earned $200 per 20 weeks at minimum wage in their base period. Workers do not need to reapply or talk to an agent to receive the expanded unemployment benefits. They will be enrolled automatically, the Labor Department said in a statement, adding that claimants who were denied extra benefits in June would have their cases re-evaluated.