The so-called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — an additional $600 per week that workers will receive for 13 weeks above and beyond the state’s regular unemployment benefits — will be a huge boon for workers who lost jobs or had their hours reduced because of stay at home mandates. The $600 will be an added benefit for 13 weeks no matter when they started receiving unemployment benefits, said Thomas Wright, a N.J. Department of Labor (DOL) spokesman. It’s possible the $600 will come as a separate deposit instead of as an addition to current benefits checks, he added.
“We understand that the action we are taking due to this unprecedented public health emergency will have a real-world impact on the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents,” said Wright.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, the state’s DOL “fully intends to have these payments starting next week,” Wright said.
The state is still waiting for more guidance from the federal government about expanded benefits for workers who are usually not covered by unemployment benefits, such as self-employed people and gig workers who have lost income because of the coronavirus pandemic. The benefits are expected to happen, but the state needs more federal guidance, it said.
The same goes for those who are already on unemployment benefits or who exhausted their benefits since the pandemic began. The expanded benefits will “generally allow claimants who’ve exhausted their unemployment benefits since July 8, 2018, or will exhaust their 26 weeks of benefits before Dec. 31, 2020, to collect an additional 13 weeks beginning with this week,” but again, the state is waiting for guidance from the feds, Wright said.
He said the state is “actively preparing to assist these new and existing claimants.”
“We completely understand how important this is to the vitality of our state,” Wright said. “Because of the extremely high volume of claims coming into our systems, we want every New Jerseyan knows we are working nonstop to ensure that every beneficiary receives all the benefits they deserve.”
Here are the scenarios under which you may collect unemployment benefits, according to DOL.
- Worker who has COVID-10, or symptoms of COVID-19
- Person who is out of work because employer voluntarily closed
- Person who is out of work because employer was ordered closed
- Worker has less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand
- Employer stays open in defiance of State closure or public health order, and worker refuses to work
- Employer permitted to be open, but worker is afraid of gathering in a group and refuses to work (self-distancing)
- Worker is advised by healthcare provider or public health authority to quarantine
- Health care provider exposed at work and recommended by medical professional to self-quarantine
- Freelance, independent contractor or “gig” worker has no work or lost hours due to public health emergency
- Worker received 26 weeks of unemployment; worker remains unemployed
These same workers would be eligible for the expanded $600 per week benefit.
Check this chart, which details eligibility not just for unemployment benefits, but for other state programs that may give you financial relief.
You can also see the chart on the DOL website.
If you’re having trouble filing for benefits, DOL asks you to be patient. It said it’s dealing with an unprecedented number of claims, and you won’t miss out on benefits if your filing is delayed. If you have trouble, see this guide about filing for unemployment.