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 reaction to the situation, the government has presented a $2 trillion stimulus package that, amongst other activities, 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 underneath the new CARES Act.

Am I Permitted 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 Nj and any other state(s) in the last 18 months, or
  • Worked for the federal government as well as in New Jersey in the last 18 months, or
  • Served within the military in the last 18 months and be physically present in New Jersey.

In accessory for the above, you will need to have met minimum earnings requirements during your base period. If you claim during April, May or June 2021, your base period is decided as January 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021. Should you claim between July through September 2021, your base period will be determined as April 1, 2021, to March 31, 2021. If you claim between October 2021 through December 2021, your base period is decided as July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021.

If you have earned at least $200 per week for 25 or more weeks during your base period, and have earned a minimum of $10,00 in total during the same time, you'll be eligible for UI providing your meet other criteria. If your income isn't sufficient, the department will take a look at earnings over two alternate base periods. More information 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 might still be eligible to claim:

  • You are sick with COVID-19.
  • You are in quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19 (a medical certificate is going to be requested to validate the exposure).
  • You are taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19 or who is in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
  • You happen to be 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 due to school closures and do not have alternative childcare arrangements.
  • You are self-employed or perhaps 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 Number plate (if applicable).
  • Pension information (if applicable).
  • Union hiring hall information, including local number and address (if applicable).
  • Complete history of employment 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 (should 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've all the necessary documents, get on 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 (included in this, you will be asked to provide your name, date of birth, SSN, and phone number. Additionally, you will 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, because of the high volume of claims becoming 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 seven p.m. Bear in mind that because of the growing number of applicants, processes might be subject to change as the department endeavors to keep up with demand. It's therefore better to check the department website directly at the time of submitting your claim to verify submission times.

When Will I Hear If My Application Continues to be Successful?

The NJ Department at work asks that you allow up to 21 days for a decision to become reached. Once they have reviewed your application, they will send you a written statement confirming the choice. If your application is denied, you've 30 days from when the letter was mailed to appeal. Instructions on how to log an appeal is going to be included in the letter.

How Much Could I Get?

If you are successful in your claim, you'll be eligible for up to 60% of your average weekly wage, up to and including maximum of $713. Under the provision of the CARES act, you will also receive a supplementary $600 for up to four months on your usual allowance. If you submitted the application prior to the change, you do not need to resubmit. Still certify your UI claim weekly, and NJ Department at work will send a separate payment from your usual benefit payment, retroactive to the week ending 29th March.

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