Unemployment Update, May 1, 2020
The New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL) is continuing to work around the clock in order to review all the claims that have been filed. Within the last few days, the NJDOL has put up new guidelines for self-employed individuals, individuals seeking extensions to their unemployment benefits, and guidelines for receiving the $600 Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) weekly payment as stipulated in the CARES Act.
Independent contractors, gig-workers, and other self-employed individuals are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) under the CARES Act. The NJDOL has finished implementing the new guidelines for PUA into their processing system and expects to start making PUA payments on Friday, May 1, 2020. The first step to receiving PUA is to apply for state unemployment benefits and to be denied. You can apply for those benefits here: myunemployment.nj.gov. If you have already applied for these benefits you do not have to take further action at this time. Additionally, if you already applied, but did not follow instructions listed by the NJDOL for self-employed individuals, the NJDOL will still review your claim to determine if you are eligible for PUA. If you have not applied for state unemployment benefits yet, you should do so while following the instructions listed by NJDOL for self-employed individuals, which can be found here. PUA claims will be backdated to the date you first became eligible, the first week of eligibility is February 8, 2020. The NJDOL may ask for your income records from 2018 and 2019 to determine the amount of PUA you are eligible for. Those individuals who do not have income records on file with the NJDOL will receive the minimum PUA payment of $231 per week while the NJDOL contacts you to update your income information. You must certify for PUA benefits weekly on the NJDOL website. Individuals receiving PUA will still be eligible for the $600 PUC weekly payments. Once you begin certifying your weekly benefits you will not have to take any additional steps, and will receive the weekly $600 payments along with your PUA benefits.
Extension of Benefits
There are a number of people who may have been receiving unemployment benefits that have expired shortly before, or during the COVID-19 pandemic. If that is the case, you are entitled to an additional round of benefits through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), authorized in the CARES Act. The PEUC provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits for those whose benefits have expired prior to or during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are already receiving or have applied for unemployment benefits, you will not need to take any new action, the extension will be applied to your account once your current balance is exhausted. If you filed for unemployment on or after July 8, 2018, have not worked since the dates during 2018-20, and have exhausted your benefits or have had your benefit year expire with your most recent claim, wait for the NJDOL to contact you, and do not certify new benefits at this time. If you filed an unemployment claim on or after July 8, 2018, and have worked since those dates in 2018-2020, file a new claim for unemployment if you have not done so already. If you applied for benefits on or after July 1, 2019 and have not utilized all 26 weeks of your benefits, reopen your claim here and begin certifying for benefits again.
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), provides an additional $600 per week to individuals receiving unemployment benefits, regardless of if it is normal benefits or those authorized as part of PUA under the CARES Act. The first step to receiving the $600 weekly payments is applying for unemployment benefits with the NJDOL. Even if you are a self-employed independent contractor or gig-worker, and are denied normal benefits, you will still be eligible for the PUC payments in addition to the PUA benefits you will receive. If you have already applied for benefits, or are currently receiving benefits, you do not need to take any additional steps. Continue to certify your weekly benefits and you will receive an additional $600 per week as the NJDOL implements these payments to individuals. The $600 payment is taxable and is issued separately from normal benefits each week. You may receive the $600 with your normal deposit of weekly benefits, or it may be deposited into your account on a separate day.