Unemployment benefits in New Jersey: What to know

Young woman sitting at home, reading on her phone about how to apply for unemployment benefits in NJImage: Young woman sitting at home, reading on her phone about how to apply for unemployment benefits in NJ

In a Nutshell

The number of new unemployment claims soared more than 1,600% in the first week following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. If you’ve been laid off or furloughed because of the coronavirus pandemic, here’s what to know about unemployment benefits in NJ and how you can apply.
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Almost 600,000 New Jersey residents have filed for unemployment insurance benefits since the beginning of March.

Because of the sudden spike in job losses, some unemployed residents have experienced delays in the claims process. But the state’s department of labor plans to backdate claims based on the week an individual filed to ensure eligible people get the benefits they deserve.

If you’re waiting to hear back on your jobless claim or you’re planning to file soon, here’s what to expect with unemployment benefits in NJ.

How do unemployment benefits work in New Jersey?

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development administers the state’s unemployment insurance program. You can file a claim online, over the phone or in person at one of the state’s 14 one-stop career centers. Visit the agency’s contact page for more information if you want to apply over the phone or in person.

Typically, if you’re eligible for New Jersey unemployment benefits, you can receive payments for a total of 26 weeks. But all states may choose to revise benefits in times of economic crisis, and the federal government may help fund extended state benefits during such times.

How can I qualify for New Jersey unemployment benefits?

Every state has its own criteria for determining eligibility for unemployment benefits. But in general, federal guidelines require the following:

  • You’re unemployed through no fault of your own
  • You meet work and wage requirements set by your state
  • You meet all other state-specific requirements

You may qualify for unemployment benefits in New Jersey if you meet the following criteria.

  • You lost your job through no fault of your own. If you voluntarily quit for reasons that aren’t work-related or you were fired for misconduct, your claim may be delayed or denied. But if your hours were reduced to part-time status, you may be able to qualify.
  • You meet minimum earnings requirements. You must have earned at least $200 per week for 20 or more weeks or $10,000 total during the base year period — that’s the last four or five calendar quarters before the week you file your initial claim. For example, if you filed for benefits on April 30 of this year, your base period would be Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 of the previous year.

Eligibility requirements are different for teachers or other school employees, corporate officers and business owners. See the state website for more details on these cases.

How much might I get?

Unemployment benefits in New Jersey are typically calculated at 60% of your average weekly wage during your base year, up to a maximum of $713 per week. The minimum weekly benefit amount you can receive ranges from $120 to $138, depending on the number of dependents listed in the application. Again, it’s possible these maximums can change during recessions or other difficult economic times.

You can use New Jersey’s benefit calculator to estimate what your potential payment could be.

Do I have to pay taxes on unemployment?

Generally, unemployment compensation is subject to federal income tax, though there are some exceptions.

How can I apply?

New Jersey accepts unemployment applications online, over the phone or in person. If you’re planning to call, reemployment call centers are available between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Eastern time on weekdays, excluding holidays.

You’ll need to prepare the following information before you start the application process.

  • Social Security number or Alien Registration number if you’re not a U.S. citizen
  • Pension or 401(k) information if you’re receiving payments from those accounts
  • Amount and duration of any separation pay you may be receiving from your employer
  • The date you expect to be recalled to your job, if you’re expected to return
  • Union hiring hall information, including local number and address, if you get work through a union
  • Military Form DD-214 if you were in the military in the last 18 months
  • Form SF-8 or SF-50 if you were a federal employee

You’ll also need to provide the complete name and address of each employer you’ve worked for in the last 18 months, along with your …

  • Employer’s telephone number
  • Occupation with that employer
  • Beginning and ending dates of employment
  • Reason for separation

You’ll need to create an online account to apply through the agency’s website. And even if you apply over the phone or in person, setting up an online account can make it easier to recertify every week that you’re still eligible for benefits. That process includes confirming that you’re actively looking for a new job and able to accept an offer of employment when you receive it.

After you’ve filed for unemployment, you’ll need to keep an eye on your mail for forms from the department of labor. You’ll also need to search for a new job, explore training opportunities and attend all of your scheduled appointments, which can occur online via a secure form, over the phone or in person.

How will I receive my payments?

You can receive your unemployment benefit money in one of two ways: direct deposit into a personal checking or savings account or as a prepaid debit card from Bank of America.

There are no fees associated with direct deposit, but the prepaid debit card comes with some fees, including an out-of-network ATM withdrawal fee of 90 cents if you make more than four withdrawals per month ($3 if it’s international), a 2% international transaction fee and a fee of up to $10 for a replacement card.

With direct deposit, you’ll typically receive your benefits within two business days of certifying your benefits. In contrast, you’ll have to wait seven to 10 business days to receive a prepaid card in the mail.

When do my benefits end?

New Jersey offers unemployment benefits equal to the number of weeks you worked in the base year period, typically up to a limit of 26 weeks total unless extended due to some sort of economic crisis.

If you return to work before you hit the maximum benefit period, your unemployment benefits will stop. At that time, you’ll call or log into your account online and provide the following information:

  • The name, address and telephone number of your new employer
  • The date you returned to work
  • How many hours you worked and your gross earnings for the period since you started the new job

You may also lose your benefits if you don’t meet weekly recertification requirements or attend mandatory meetings.

What if my claim is rejected?

You can check the status of your claim online through the agency’s website. You’ll need to provide your name, Social Security number and date of birth to get an update.

If the state denies your claim for unemployment benefits, you can file an appeal and state your case. To prevent the initial denial from becoming final, you’ll need to file your appeal within seven calendar days after delivery of the determination letter or within 10 calendar days of its mailing — you can get an exception to this rule if you can show good cause.

You can submit your appeal online or by mail. State your reason for disagreeing with the determination to deny benefits and continue to certify your weekly unemployment benefits while you wait to get a response. This will ensure that you get credit for those weeks if your appeal is accepted. And again, make sure to attend all scheduled appointments with the agency.

Bottom line

Unemployment can cause of a lot of uncertainty and fear. While unemployment benefits in NJ may not be enough to replace your full income, they can help soften the financial blow of losing your job. Take some time to determine if you may be eligible and submit an application to get the relief you need.

How has COVID-19 affected New Jersey unemployment benefits?

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a serious strain on the U.S. economy, and millions of Americans filed for unemployment in the first few weeks of the pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provides some unemployment benefits in addition to what the state of New Jersey typically offers, and you may be able to benefit from these extra perks.

Here’s some of what this new law includes.

  • You can receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits
  • You can get $600 per week on top of your regular state benefits. Keep in mind that this benefit is set to expire no later than July 31, 2020.
  • Unemployment benefits are expanded to people who wouldn’t otherwise qualify. More specifically, you may be able to get a claim approved if you’re an independent contractor,  self-employed individual or gig worker.

About the author: Ben Luthi is a personal finance freelance writer and credit cards expert. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance from Brigham Young University. In addition to Credit Karma, you can find his wo… Read more.