The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development saw an expected post-holiday increase in unemployment claims driven by seasonal workers, and it received word from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) that there would be no lapse in COVID-related federal benefits available through a new stimulus bill signed the day after pandemic programs expired, affecting an estimated 500,000 New Jerseyans.
Initial weekly unemployment claims totaled 20,460* for the week ending Dec. 26 — an increase of 2,849 claims over the prior week — with the total number of initial claims for benefits now approaching 1.9 million since mid-March. Nearly $20.5 billion in benefits have been distributed to workers in need. Of those currently claiming benefits, most have received more than $10,000 in benefits, and roughly a third have received more than $20,000.
Enactment of the Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act of 2020 on Sunday means residents collecting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) are eligible to continue receiving benefits for 11 additional weeks, through March 13, and should continue to certify for benefits weekly according to the schedule. The supplemental benefit known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) was also renewed for 11 weeks, through March 13, but at a rate of $300/week; the original program expired in July.
“Though there are still a lot of details needed from the USDOL to begin the work of implementing these new programs, we were thrilled to hear there would be no gap in benefits for residents currently receiving federal assistance,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said. “We see from the sheer volume of new unemployment claims that this pandemic continues to affect significant numbers of workers, many who are unemployed for the first time in their lives.”
The Department also reported on Thursday that the minimum wage in New Jersey is set to increase to $12/hour on Jan. 1, part of a multi-year legislative phase-in to a $15 minimum wage for most workers. (For more information on the minimum wage increases, please visit https://njbia.org/minimum-wage-law-p-l-2019-c-32/)
PUA and PEUC were authorized by Congress under the CARES Act through Dec. 26, then extended under the Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act through March 13, 2021. The maximum eligibility for PUA is now 57 weeks. PEUC now provides up to 24 weeks of additional benefits to those who exhaust 26 weeks of state unemployment. Extended benefits (EB) adds a final 20 weeks of benefits. The renewed FPUC benefit is a $300/week unemployment supplement for anyone collecting unemployment in any amount. Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) was funded by FEMA and provided six weeks of supplemental benefits to people unemployed Aug. 1 through Sept. 5 due to COVID.
For more information on state or federal unemployment programs, visit myunemployment.nj.gov.
Visit New Jersey’s jobs portal here: jobs.covid19.nj.gov.
*This represents the final number for the week ending Dec. 26. The number listed for New Jersey by the US Department of Labor – 18,452– is based on advanced reporting.
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