Rob Asaro-Angelo

A Staggering Rise in NJ Unemployment Claims

New Jersey Department of Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said at today’s state COVID-19 press conference that there was a 1,600% increase in unemployment claims during the “first week of the crisis,” and that over the last two weeks overall, approximately 362,000 people applied for unemployment benefits.

Asaro-Angelo said his department is ensuring that its 40-year-old legacy mainframe computer systems continue to perform, and, separately, that his team has increased capacity and usability in many ways. He added, “Imagine a stadium with 10,000 seats, but there are a million people waiting to get in. There are only so many [people] who can get through the gates at one time.”

In addition to what the state government pays the unemployed, Asaro-Angelo said the federal CARES Act will expand unemployment eligibility and provide an additional $600 per week, for four months.

He explained, “It will open up benefits to those who are not traditionally eligible, such as the self-employed and independent contractors. However, we still have to wait for federal guidance before that can begin. But, relief is coming. This week, which ends today (April 5), is the first week claimants are eligible for this additional $600 benefit.”

It is anticipated that New Jersey residents will receive these monies a few days following receipt of their regular unemployment checks, with the commissioner adding, “They do not have to do anything else to get this additional funding.”

The State of New Jersey is awaiting guidance from the United States Department of Labor regarding how and when to administer the 13-week extension of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits.

Note: Ansaro-Angelo will take part in an NJBIA webinar titled “What NJ Employers Need to Know About the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” on Monday at 3 p.m. Those interested can register by clicking here.  

Public Health

Gov. Phil Murphy announced at today’s press conference that the state confirmed 4,331 new positive COVID-19 test results in the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s cumulative total to 34,124.

The state additionally announced 200 new deaths, for a total of 846 fatalities, thus far.

Before observing a moment of silence, Murphy said, “Let me put this in a proper, yet very sobering context: We have now lost nearly 100 more of our fellow New Jerseyans to COVID-19 than we did in the September 11th attacks.

“Please let that sink in, for a moment. This pandemic is riding one of the greatest tragedies in our state’s history, and just as we have committed to never forgetting those lost on 9/11, we must commit to never forgetting those we are losing to this pandemic.”

Separately, while Executive Order No. 108 essentially outlined that the state’s rules supersede local counties’ and municipalities’ pandemic rules, it was announced at the press conference that an administrative order (to be released later today) is expected to allow local governments leeway regarding the ability for travelers to lodge at towns’ hotels and motels, for example.

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