Urban News Staff Reports
Numbers from the New Jersey Labor & Workforce Development indicate that initial unemployment claims for the year now tops 1 million, a 524% jump from a year ago.
For the week ending April 25, initial unemployment claims were 71,966*, the lowest weekly total since the pandemic started. Nonetheless, nearly 622,000 people who have been laid off, furloughed or had their hours cut are now collecting unemployment.
Roughly 200,000 applicants who have not yet received benefits are self-employed, independent contractors or those who do not have enough recent earnings to qualify for regular unemployment benefits. However, those workers likely are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a new program authorized by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Labor Department announced Wednesday that it is beginning to make payments to these workers on Friday.
“The Department has worked hard over the past month to put the infrastructure in place to get this program up and running, despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “We know that people are anxious to receive these benefits — and we want to get benefits out the door as quickly as possible — but we had to build from scratch a process to determine eligibility, protect claimants’ personal information, prevent fraud and distribute these new benefits.”
Approximately $1.9 billion in unemployment benefits have reached unemployed and furloughed New Jersey workers since the pandemic began. That figure includes $727 million in state unemployment benefits since mid-March and $690 million in supplemental payments distributed over the past three weeks.
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.
Upwards of 92%t of new unemployment applications are being filed online at myunemployment.nj.gov. 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.
Those looking for work is encouraged to visit New Jersey’s jobs portal — jobs.covid19.nj.gov — which matches jobseekers with tens of thousands of immediate openings in industries on the frontlines of the pandemic, such as food distribution, warehousing and health care.
“As we pass the milestone of 1 million claims filed – a number so staggering, we never thought we would come close to reaching it in such a compressed period of time – I’m incredibly proud of the tireless work of our staff to get nearly $2 billion into the bank accounts of so many New Jersey workers, to support their families,” said Asaro-Angelo.“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. 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.”