Trenton – In an effort to extend unemployment benefits, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today passed legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph Vitale to provide relief to New Jersey workers hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would do this by expanding the eligibility for extended benefits provided by the State’s unemployment insurance program up to an additional 20 weeks.
“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, these benefits are set to run out in December, leaving millions of New Jersey residents without any financial security,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This is an essential piece of legislation that we must prioritize and that should receive overwhelming support in both houses. In order to keep our residents afloat, we must pass this bill.”
The bill, S-3063, would allow more people to become eligible for the extension of the unemployment benefits for up to an additional 20 weeks. Specifically, since unemployment insurance claims already require a worker to have at least 20 weeks of employment to be eligible for claims, the bill would recognize that time as satisfying the requirement for the criteria which allows states to provide extended benefits to workers who have worked 20 full-time weeks. The expansion also comes at a crucial time, as claimants currently are getting 39 weeks of benefits under the CARES Act. That means a worker laid off on March 15, the first week of claims after Governor Murphy declared a State of Emergency in response to COVID-19, would run out of benefits next month during the week of December 12.
During times of economic hardship, unemployed claimants can take advantage of extended benefits programs, in addition to emergency supplemental aid often provided by the federal government. These programs are triggered when certain conditions are met, such as when total unemployment is 6% or higher. They provide an additional 13 weeks of compensation and, when unemployment is greater than 8%, can extend the insurance programs as long as 20 weeks past traditional unemployment insurance coverage.
The bill would not only open up the program to all existing claimants, but also allow the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to seamlessly transition them to the new programs. The federal government will provide funding for half of all claims paid out under extended benefits programs.
The bill was unanimously released from committee.