More than 33,000 New Jerseyans inadvertently cost themselves unemployment benefits by incorrectly answering the weekly certification questions required by federal law, New Jersey Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said Thursday.
On another day of depressing unemployment statistics — more than 1.1 million in New Jersey have now filed claims since March 15 — Asaro-Angelo said the number of residents who get booted out of the system is a concern.
“One wrong click is all it takes to see a pause in these much-needed benefits,” he said.
Asaro-Angelo, speaking at Gov. Phil Murphy’s daily COVID-19 briefing, stressed the importance of answering the federally mandated questions.
This issue has been a problem for some time. So much so that the department two weeks ago distributed what is essentially a cheat sheet, which tells those filing how to answer the questions.
Asaro-Angelo said the questions — which he cannot change or eliminate — can be confusing. Specifically, those who have been furloughed and fully expect to be recalled still have to say they are looking for work.
Failing to answer properly will cause a suspension of benefits.
“There were a significant number of workers who inadvertently suspended their benefits because of how they responded to federal mandated weekly certification questions,” he said.
“It’s no secret our offices are all receiving phone calls and emails about those who started receiving unemployment benefits and suddenly stopped. There are only two reasons this could be happening. Either our claimants no longer qualify for benefits or, far more likely, they are responding adversely to one of the certification questions.”
Asaro-Angelo said approximately 80% of those who file will receive benefits. And the number of those receiving benefits will increase as the state now has the ability to handle those eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUAs, as they are known, and those eligible for a 13-week extension after their benefits have run out.
Asaro-Angelo said the state began notifying that pool of people — approximately 77,000 — this week.
Of course, in order for them to get the benefits, they will have to answer the questions correctly.