The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has distributed $14.1 billion in unemployment benefits and received 1.5 million applications for benefits since COVID-19 forced businesses and organizations throughout the state to curtail operations five months ago.

For the week ending Aug. 15, the Labor Department received 25,405 new unemployment applications, reversing a two-week decline in the number of new weekly claims.

Many of the new applications are for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a federal income replacement benefit for workers who do not qualify for traditional unemployment. PUA provides benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors and those who do not have enough recent earnings to qualify for regular unemployment, as well as those unable to work due to COVID-19. For more information, visit nj.gov/labor’s worker protection pages at: https://www.nj.gov/labor/worker-protections/returntowork.shtml

“We’re moving claims forward for workers whose income has dried up due to COVID or who cannot return to their place of work because of the virus,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “We are currently paying benefits to as many as 300,000 people who do not qualify for traditional unemployment — this is an entirely new population of people who are receiving benefits in addition to the record numbers of ‘regular’ claimants who are in need, often for an extended period, during the pandemic.”

Of the total number of unemployment applications received, 1.3 million have met the monetary requirements for eligibility. Of those, 96 percent have received payment.

The number of New Jersey workers exhausting state and federal unemployment and being moved to extended benefits climbed to 14,846 with the total payout to this group exceeding $30 million. Up to 20 weeks of extended benefits kicks in for eligible claimants when all other federal and state benefits have been exhausted.

Meanwhile, with Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) winding down, New Jersey paid out $95 million last week, the lowest weekly total since the program began. The $600 weekly unemployment supplement expired on July 25, but New Jersey continues to issue payments for eligible weeks from April 4 through July 25.

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