Gov. Phil Murphy, saying the unemployed in New Jersey can’t wait on officials in Washington, D.C., to act, announced Friday the state would provide an additional 20 weeks of unemployment benefits.
“We must be prepared in case Washington fails to act,” Murphy said. “That is why, this morning, I signed legislation expanding eligibility for the 20 weeks of extended unemployment benefits that our Department of Labor provides for those who have exhausted their state and federal unemployment benefits.”
The number of initial unemployment claims last week again faced a major climb, with 13,542 New Jerseyans filing for the first time. That’s an increase of 1,350 from the previous week. The increase, Murphy said, is call for federal action.
“These families need Washington to step up and extend emergency federal benefits,” he said. “This cannot be left to the last minute. Everyone needs to work together to get that job done right now.”
In total, 1.8 million New Jerseyans have made initial claims since March. The Department of Labor has distributed $19.5 billion to residents in the form of unemployment benefits. The main bulk of those funds, about $8.3 million, has come from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. The remainder has mostly come from New Jersey Unemployment Insurance Benefits and the Lost Wages Act.
Murphy believes the uptick was mostly due to school staff workers and bus drivers who had to file due to the holiday break in many schools. Despite this explanation, there are still reports of many residents who have been unable to get through to unemployment and have not received benefits owed to them.
Murphy acknowledges these concerns, but assured residents that almost all of these complaints are individual issues that were quickly resolved.
“Up until six months ago, there were systemic issues,” he said. “No one was answering the phones. Systems were going down over the weekend. Something that was affecting broad classes of people.
“For the past six months, folks have not been bashful about coming to me with their unemployment challenges. It has been, almost if not literally, 100% a particular issue to that person. … We haven’t had remotely the amount of frustration we had in the early spring.”