TRENTON – Gov. Phil Murphy Dec. 4 signed legislation (A4852), expanding eligibility for extended UI benefits to claimants who either had been eligible for regular UI benefits prior to exhausting those benefits or earned 40 times their unemployment weekly benefits rate.
According to a release, per prior law, eligibility for extended UI benefits, which offer up to an additional 20 weeks of benefits, was limited to claimants who satisfied both criteria.
“We have an obligation to make sure that New Jerseyans can stay afloat during these extraordinarily challenging times,” stated Murphy. “While we desperately need the federal government to step up, we’re doing our part to help working people weather the storm. This law will help many residents that were previously ineligible for extended UI benefits to get the financial relief that they earned and deserve.”
“We applaud the Legislature and the governor for enacting this legislation, which will provide extended unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of additional workers at a time when they most need the support,” stated Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.
Primary sponsors for A4852 include Assembly members Yvonne Lopez (D-19th), Craig Coughlin (D-19th), Vincent Mazzeo (D-2nd), and Sens. Joseph Vitale (D-19th) and Nellie Pou (D-35th).
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in New Jersey, with no clear end in sight, we must do everything in our power to bolster our unemployment program and help unemployed workers through this difficult time,” stated Lopez, Coughlin and Mazzeo, in a joint statement. “Uncertain times call for innovative measures, and extending unemployment benefits for eligible workers under this new law will certainly help bridge the gap for workers to find new employment opportunities.”
“In the spring, millions of people became unemployed through no fault of their own, and have since been receiving unemployment benefits while they continue to look for work. However, for some these benefits are set to run out in the middle of December, leaving countless New Jersey residents without any financial security for the foreseeable future,” stated Vitale. “This is an essential piece of legislation that will ensure New Jersey’s extended benefits program eligibility is evaluated in the most generous way possible under federal law. Our residents need help now to pay their bills and survive during this pandemic. This bill will help them do that.”
“The pandemic has ravaged the state’s economy and left far too many families without any financial security other than their unemployment benefits. These benefits were set to expire in the coming weeks, but thanks to today’s signing, that won’t be the case,” stated Pou. “Despite very good news about a COVID-19 vaccine, this public health crisis will likely continue well into the new year, and we have a responsibility to our residents to ensure they receive the financial support they need.”
Claimants of Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program benefits are entitled to 26 weeks of regular unemployment in New Jersey. The CARES Act offers up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. After claimants exhaust their 26 weeks of state unemployment plus 13 weeks of federal pandemic emergency unemployment compensation, claimants are eligible for extended benefits.
Twenty weeks of extended benefits are available during “high unemployment periods.” The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced July 1 that it would begin providing 20 weeks of extended unemployment to New Jersey workers who have exhausted their state and federal jobless benefits. The additional 20 weeks of benefits bring to 59 the maximum number of weeks an eligible claimant may receive unemployment benefits.
Under prior state unemployment law, a claimant qualifies for extended benefits, only if the claimant had been eligible for regular UI benefits prior to exhausting those benefits and was paid wages during the base year of the claimant’s applicable benefit year 40 times the claimant’s weekly benefit rate.
A4852 permits the claimant to be eligible for the extended benefits if the claimant had been eligible for regular UI benefits prior to exhausting those benefits or earned 40 times their unemployment weekly benefit rate.