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Weinberg, Johnson & Vainieri Huttle Introduce Bill to Ensure Residents Receive All Deserved Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Assistance

Bill Would Backdate Unemployment Insurance Claims to the Official Date the Resident Became Unemployed

TRENTON – Ensuring New Jersey residents have full access to unemployment insurance benefits from the date of unemployment, Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assembly members Gordon Johnson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle introduced legislation that would change the effective date of an individual’s unemployment claim.

The sponsors note the pandemic has put one in four workers out of work since mid-March, bringing a total of 1.44 million residents to file for unemployment insurance since COVID-19 began.

“My office is fielding calls on a daily basis from residents desperately trying to get through to the unemployment office, and I know my office is far from alone,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Tens of thousands of New Jerseyans are frantically trying to navigate our antiquated unemployment system, some since as far back as March. Since the system and the department won’t be fixed overnight, the responsible thing to do is ensure that when claims finally get approved, they are retroactive to when the person started the process, not when they ended it.”

The measure would provide that the effective date of a claim for unemployment benefits will be the date on which an individual becomes unemployed, unless the claimant waits to file for unemployment benefits more than 180 days after becoming unemployed then the effective date of the claim will be the date of filing.

Assembly sponsors Johnson and Vainieri Huttle plan to officially introduce the measure at the next Assembly Quorum call.

“With much of New Jersey’s workforce filing for benefits, we must ensure our residents see every dollar they are due while they collect unemployment. Our bill makes clear to workers that their unemployment claim will be backdated to their last day of work, and they will not lose a day of benefits for which they are eligible,” said Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Johnson (D-Bergen). “We’re aiming to bring more accountability to unemployment claims that have lingered for months; requiring benefits be paid if a claim takes longer than two months to process. Workers have paid for these benefits throughout their entire career. They deserve swift access to these funds, especially in this time of crisis.”

Currently, regulations provide that the date of an individual’s claim for benefits is the Sunday before the week that the individual files for unemployment benefits.  Consequently, an individual who does not file for unemployment benefits in the week the individual becomes unemployed will lose benefits for which the individual would otherwise be eligible.

“With unemployment continuing to rise, New Jersey’s families need our full support to access the benefits that are owed to them,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).  “Delays in filing can occur for countless reasons, especially during a period of historic unemployment. This legislation will ensure that the New Jerseyans who are relying on these benefits will have access to the relief that they need and deserve.”

Under the bill, if a determination is not made within sixty days of the date of filing of an individual’s claim, the claimant will be entitled to the maximum weekly benefit under the law. Each week of benefits paid to a claimant shall be charged against the individual’s maximum benefit weeks. The bill will be retroactive to all claims filed on or after March 1, 2020.

The legislation will go to the Senate President and the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.