The state Department of Labor said it has started to review claims filed under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

The money was made available through the federal CARES Act, which gives states the ability to extend unemployment benefits to independent contractors, the self-employed and "gig" workers normally not eligible for benefits because they and their employers aren't paying into the unemployment insurance system. 

The new law also allows extends benefits to people whose benefits have been exhausted and gives all unemployment recipients an extra $600 per week retroactive from April 4 to July 25.

Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said modifications have been completed to allow the claims to be processed. The state has been trying to work through the backlog of people seeking PUA benefits. Nearly 278,000 more who aren’t normally eligible for benefits have filed for payments through the temporary PUA program.

The first group determined to be eligible will be notified by email or text and will be able to certify starting Sunday for any weeks going back to March 28, according to a statement from the Department of Labor. Payments generally arrive two business days after certification. The supplement arrives separately.

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The  Department of Labor said that it recently made nearly 140,000 additional claimants newly eligible for payments. These include claimants who had their benefits suspended after incorrectly answering one of the questions on the federally mandated weekly certification. Workers who expect to be recalled to work should answer "yes" to questions about whether they are searching for work in order to avoid getting their payment suspended.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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