NJ urges patience after unemployment surge crashes system
So many New Jerseyans filed new claims for unemployment benefits that they crashed the state’s system Monday.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the 15,000 applications was a single-day record for the state. The system was operational Tuesday, and Murphy said his administration has asked the federal government for help in ensuring every application is properly received and handled.
“For residents who are out of work as a result of this emergency, help is available,” Murphy said. “Workers whose place of employment has closed or whose hours have been cut as a result of this emergency are in all likelihood eligible to receive either full or partial unemployment insurance benefits for however long they will either be out of work or working fewer hours.”
Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said workers should visit his agency’s website, NJ.gov/labor, before they apply for benefits to research whether they may be eligible for unemployment, temporary disability, family leave or workers’ compensation.
“Look at the chart on our website to determine which program you think you might be eligible for,” Asaro-Angelo said. “This is really important. Applying for a program you are not eligible for could set your application back weeks, delaying your much-needed income support.”
On Monday, the department suspended in-person unemployment services at One-Stop Career Centers statewide until at least March 30. People can file online at myunemployment.nj.gov or over the phone – 201-601-4100, 732-761-2020 or 856-507-2340 – if you can get through.
“Workers are urged to apply online for the fastest service,” Asaro-Angelo said. “But we ask for your patience. We’ve seen a 12-fold increase in benefit applications this week, and we’re experiencing extraordinarily high call volume.”
“Applying online is easy and will save you precious time in receiving your benefits,” he said. “But please know if you can’t get though over the phone or online, your claim will be backdated. So you won’t lose a day’s benefits that are due to you.”
In addition to unemployment benefits, workers might be entitled to paid sick leave through a state program or paid family leave.
Asaro-Angelo said New Jersey has “one of the most generous paid sick leave laws in the country” and that it covers unanticipated school closings and public health emergencies.
“Workers who test positive for COVID-19 or if they were exposed to the virus, have compromised immunity or are taking care of a family sick member are likely eligible for family leave insurance,” Asaro-Angelo said.
“New Jersey already has among the nation’s strongest and best laws as they pertain to guaranteed paid sick leave and expanded paid family leave,” Murphy said. “Both of these laws are here for precisely situations like this.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.