Eligibility for extended unemployment insurance (UI) benefits was expanded when Gov. Phil Murphy signed new legislation into law.
The bill, which had Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19), Assemblymembers Yvonne Lopez (D-19) and Vincent Mazzeo (D-2) along with State Sens. Joseph Vitale (D-19) and Nellie Pou (D-35) as primary sponsors, was designed to help New Jersey residents still suffering under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic and associated economic fallout.
“We have an obligation to make sure that New Jerseyans can stay afloat during these extraordinarily challenging times,” said Murphy in a press statement. “While we desperately need the federal government to step up, we’re doing our part to help working people weather the storm. This law will help many residents that were previously ineligible for extended UI benefits to get the financial relief that they earned and deserve.”
Mechanics of the Law
The law will allow those who had been eligible for regular UI benefits prior to exhausting those benefits or those who earned 40 times their unemployment weekly benefits rate to apply for the benefits.
Under prior law, eligibility for extended UI benefits was limited to those claimants who satisfied both criteria. The extended UI benefits offer up to an additional 20 weeks of benefits.
“Despite very good news about a COVID-19 vaccine, this public health crisis will likely continue well into the new year and we have a responsibility to our residents to ensure they receive the financial support they need,” said State Sen. Pou.
Expansions from Prior Changes
Before the CARES Act was finalized, claimants of Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program were entitled to 26 weeks of regular unemployment in the state. The CARES Act added up to 13 additional weeks of UI benefits through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.
After 39 weeks, claimants could apply for extended unemployment benefits. Twenty weeks would be available during “high unemployment periods,” bringing the total to 59 weeks as the maximum.
“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,” said State Sen. Vitale. “However, for some these benefits are set to run out in the middle of December, leaving countless New Jersey residents without any financial security for the foreseeable future.”
The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose more than expected national in the last week amid a surge in COVID-19 infections and governments ordering stricter measures to help slow the spread of the virus.
Weekly jobless claims increased by 853,000 last week, up from the 716,000 a week ago. This was the highest number since Sept. 19. The total of those collecting under all programs stands at just over 19 million.
In New Jersey, the number of workers who have sought jobless benefits since mid-March stands at 1,840,172. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development distributed $230 million in benefits during the week ending Dec. 5, and has sent a total of $19.75 billion to workers impacted by the pandemic.
As of Dec. 10, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 386,606 with 5,370 total new cases reported and 68 new deaths, bringing that total to 15,740. The state listed probable deaths at 1,868, bringing the overall total to 17,608.
For North Jersey counties, Hudson had a total of 549 new cases, Bergen 535 new cases, Passaic 484 new cases, Essex 436 new cases, Morris 210 new cases, Warren 50 new cases and Sussex 33 new cases.
State officials noted 52 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,054, followed by Bergen at 1,933, Hudson with 1,463, Passaic at 1,214, Morris at 733, Sussex at 163 and Warren with 161.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 254, Essex has 234, Hudson has 159, Morris at 157, Passaic at 144, Sussex has 39 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Dec. 5 was 13.2%, with the North reporting 14.0%, Central 11.6% and South 11.6% on approximately 38,000 tests. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 1.12 from 1.10 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 3,545 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,625 in the North, 1,153 in the Central and 767 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 644 are in intensive care units and 412 on ventilators, while 434 patients were discharged.
Essex Tops County Count
Essex has the most cumulative cases in the state with 39,782, followed by Bergen at 39,303, Hudson at 36,049, Middlesex at 35,313, Passaic at 34,219, Union at 31,557, Ocean at 25,148, Monmouth at 24,281, Camden at 22,740, Burlington at 16,264, Morris at 15,970, Mercer at 15,621, Gloucester at 10,959, Somerset at 10,336, Atlantic at 9,270, Cumberland at 5,909, Sussex at 3,156, Warren at 2,951, Hunterdon at 2,893, Salem at 2,951 and Cape May at 1,893.
Another 945 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 88 outbreaks involving 388 cases have been reported in 19 of the 21 counties in the Garden State, with 15 new outbreaks involving 103 cases recorded in the last week. For North Jersey, Bergen County has 15 confirmed outbreaks with 79 cases, Passaic County has four confirmed outbreaks with 23 cases, Warren County has four confirmed outbreaks with nine cases, Sussex County has three confirmed outbreaks with seven cases and Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 383 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 7,974 of the cases, broken down between 3,692 residents and 4,282 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,081 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 27,737 residents and 16,974 staff, for a total of 44,711 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,365 on Dec. 10. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,034 residents deaths and 123 staff deaths.