With record numbers of New Jersey residents experiencing layoffs and reduced working hours as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the demand for Unemployment Insurance benefits (UI) has risen exponentially. In response to the situation, the government has rolled out a $2 trillion stimulus package that, amongst other things, expands the current UI package to cater to the increased need. If your working situation and income have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, it’s worth checking if, and what, you’re eligible to claim under the new CARES Act.
Am I Eligible to Claim?
In order to claim UI in New Jersey, the NJ Department of Labor stipulates you must have:
- Worked only in New Jersey in the last 18 months, or
- Worked in New Jersey and any other state(s) in the last 18 months, or
- Worked for the federal government and in New Jersey in the last 18 months, or
- Served in the military in the last 18 months and be physically present in New Jersey.
In addition to the above, you will need to have met minimum earnings requirements during your base period. If you claim during April, May or June 2020, your base period will be determined as January 1, 2019, to December 31, 2019. If you claim between July through September 2020, your base period will be determined as April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020. If you claim between October 2020 through December 2020, your base period will be determined as July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020.
If you have earned at least $200 per week for 20 or more weeks during your base period, or have earned a minimum of $10,00 in total during the same time, you will be eligible for UI providing your meet all other criteria. If your income isn’t sufficient, the department will review your earnings over two alternate base periods. More details on how alternate base years are calculated can be found at the Department’s website.
Under normal circumstances, you would also need to demonstrate you are:
- Out of work through no fault of your own
- Able to work
- Ready and willing to work
- Actively seeking employment
In response to the crisis, expectations around the last three points have now been relaxed. If you are unable to work as a result of any of the below circumstances, you may still be eligible to claim:
- You are sick with COVID-19.
- You are in quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19 (a medical certificate will be requested to validate the exposure).
- You are caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19 or who is in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
- You have been laid off because of COVID-19.
- Your hours have been cut because of COVID-19.
- Your workplace has been closed due to COVID-19.
- You cannot work because of school closures and do not have alternative childcare arrangements.
- You are self-employed or a gig worker whose business has been affected by COVID-19.
- How Do I Apply for Unemployment in New Jersey?
- Before you file your claim, gather together the documents that will be requested in support of your application.
- Social Security Number.
- Alien Registration Number (if applicable).
- Pension information (if applicable).
- Union hiring hall information, including local number and address (if applicable).
- Complete employment history for the past 18 months, to include name and address of each employer, employer’s telephone number, your occupation with that employer, beginning and ending dates of employment, the reason for employment ending.
- Return to work date (if you on furlough and a recall date has been provided by your employer).
- Amount of any separation pay you are receiving (if applicable) along with duration paid.
- Military Form DD-214 (if you have completed military service within the past 18 months).
- Form SF-8 or SF-50 (if you were a federal employee).
Once you have all the necessary documents, log on to the NJ Department of Labor’s website to create an account. Account creation is simple: simply provide and verify your email address before completing the account registration (as part of this, you will be asked to provide your name, date of birth, SSN, and phone number. You will also be asked to create a secure password). Once you have created your account, you’ll be able to log your claim.
As noted by Fool.com, due to the high volume of claims currently being submitted, the department has requested all new claimants file their application according to a daily schedule based on the last 4 digits of their SSN.
- 0000 and 2500: 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
- 2501 and 5000: 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.
- 5001 and 7500: 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.
- 7501 and 9999: 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
If you miss your slot, you can file between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Bear in mind that due to the growing number of applicants, processes may be subject to change as the department endeavors to keep up with demand. It’s therefore advisable to check the department website directly at the time of submitting your claim to verify submission times.
When Will I Hear If My Application Has Been Successful?
The NJ Department of Labor asks that you allow up to 21 days for a decision to be reached. Once they have reviewed your application, they will send you a written statement confirming the decision. If your application is denied, you have 30 days from when the letter was mailed to appeal. Instructions on how to log an appeal will be included in the letter.
How Much Could I Get?
If you are successful in your claim, you will be eligible for up to 60% of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $713. Under the provision of the CARES act, you will also receive a supplementary $600 for up to four months on top of your usual allowance. If you submitted your application prior to the change, you do not need to resubmit. Continue to certify your UI claim weekly, and NJ Department of Labor will send a separate payment from your usual benefit payment, retroactive to the week ending 29th March.