The U.S. Department of Labor will allow states’ the ability to waive certain unemployment insurance overpayments after New Jersey and other states urged the action on behalf of claimants who received federal benefits during the pandemic but were later found to be ineligible.
“We are thankful to the states, like New Jersey, that shared with us challenges dealing with overpayment waivers in a way that will not alarm claimants or cause them undue hardship,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh in a press statement Feb. 8. “States did their best to pay benefits as quickly as they could during the pandemic, but implementing new programs quickly meant innocent mistakes that resulted in overpayments. We encourage states to forgive as many honest mistakes as they can.”
In New Jersey, as many as 250,000 claimants could be affected. The average overpayment is about $4,400. Both state and federal officials noted the probability of recovering the overpayments from the millions of claimants across the country who received them is low compared to the resources that would be used attempting to recover them.
The updated guidance contains five scenarios under which overpayments may be waived, all involving receipt of COVID-19 related expanded unemployment benefits such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
The situations include but are not limited to: if a claimant responded “no” to being able and available for work and the state issued PUA or PEUC payments without adjudicating the eligibility issue; a claimant who received a higher PUA payment that they were eligible for; a claimant whose PUA weekly benefit amount was calculated incorrectly based on the earnings statement submitted.
Residents to be Notified
“This is great news for tens of thousands of New Jerseyans who received these benefits believing they were entitled to them, but found out when federal guidance changed that they did not meet the eligibility standards. We’re grateful to U.S. Labor Commissioner Walsh for his openness to state input,” New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said.
The New Jersey Department of Labor is working through the details of the updated guidance and will notify claimants eligible for the overpayment waivers of their next steps. Fraudulent overpayments remain exempt from waiver and must be repaid.
“While we appreciate USDOL pursuing its available statutory authority to provide relief, we remain hopeful that Congress will grant states the broader overpayment waiver authority we are seeking,” said Asaro-Angelo. “Doing so would provide peace of mind to tens of thousands of New Jerseyans whose overpayments fall outside the new guidance (and) allow us to dedicate our resources to serving unemployed workers in need rather than putting claimants in precarious financial situations.”
The cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey as of Feb. 9 was 1,846,562 with 1,784 total new PCR cases. There were 634 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 289,825. The total number of individual cases for the state is 2,136,387.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 102 confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 29,157. The state listed probable deaths at 2,937, bringing the overall total to 32,187. State officials noted 23 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on Feb. 9, Bergen had a total of 152 new confirmed cases and 77 new probable cases, Essex 123 new cases and 30 new probable case, Hudson 133 new cases and 26 new probable cases, Morris 113 new confirmed cases and 31 new probable cases, Passaic 98 new cases and 23 new probable cases, Sussex 23 new cases and 14 new probable cases, and Warren 32 new cases and three new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 3,201, followed by Bergen at 3,033, Hudson with 2,442, Passaic at 2,079, Morris at 1,202, Sussex at 360, and Warren County at 299.
In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 7, Bergen has 321, Essex has 310, Morris has 284, Hudson has 223, Passaic has 203, Sussex has 82 and Warren has 27.
As for the rate of transmission reported Feb. 8, it remained at 0.51 for a second day in a row. The daily rate of infections from those tested Feb. 4 was 7.6%; by region, the rate was 5.7% in the North, 8.7% in the Central region and 10.9% in the South.
The state’s dashboard had a count of 1,811 patients hospitalized as all 71 hospitals in the Garden State filed reports Feb. 9. By region, there were 683 in the North, 633 in the Central and 495 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 344 are in intensive care units and 229 on ventilators. A total of 159 patients were discharged in the last 24 hour reporting period.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, intensive care units, ventilators 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.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 553 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 26,668 of the cases, broken down between 12,269 residents and 14,399 staff.
Cumulatively, 2,357 long-term care facilities have reported an outbreak infecting 46,177 residents and 37,538 staff, for a total of 83,715.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 9,110 on Feb. 9. The facilities are reporting to the state 8,457 residents deaths and 149 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 13,535,912 in-state, plus an additional 552,281 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 14,088,193 as of Feb. 8.
Of those who have received the vaccine, 6,439,751 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 221,146 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 6,660,897. With just under 8.5 million eligible in New Jersey to be vaccinated, 77% are fully vaccinated and 91% have received at least one dose.
State officials reported boosters and third shots of 1,526,960 for Pfizer and 1,266,899 for Moderna. A total of 60,719 New Jerseyans have received their Johnson & Johnson booster shot. Overall, 2,854,578 have received a booster or third shot. Overall, 51% of the 5.6 million of those eligible have received their booster.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has 707,025 residents fully vaccinated, Essex 572,467, Hudson 512,859, Morris 379,523, Passaic 348,378, Sussex 90,987, and Warren 59,151.
According to the state dashboard with 63.6% of all New Jersey schools reporting, new student cases totaled 6,457 and new staff cases 1,536 in the last week as of Jan. 30. Cumulatively, 130,820 cases have been reported— 102,237 students and 28,583 staffers.
In regards to outbreaks related to in-school transmissions as of Feb. 8, the state has tracked 484 school outbreaks and 3,255 cases linked to those outbreaks since the 2021/2022 school year starting Aug. 7, up 19 outbreaks and 117 cases from the week previous.
Outbreaks are defined as three or more laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within a 14 day period, linked within the school setting, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting during standard case investigation or contact tracing.
For North Jersey in the new report, Bergen County has 55 confirmed outbreaks with 304 cases, Morris County has 40 confirmed outbreaks with 241 cases, Essex County has 31 confirmed outbreaks with 225 cases, Passaic County has 22 confirmed outbreaks with 188 cases, Sussex has 34 confirmed outbreaks with 183 cases, Hudson County has 19 confirmed outbreaks with 92 cases and Warren County has two confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases.