Losing your job is devastating. Believe me, I know. I was let go in September 2008 when my former company laid off 15% of its workforce. A few days after getting the ax, I filed for my unemployment benefits in New Jersey. No one likes to or wants to collect unemployment benefits. It’s almost as if you are being punished. But remember, YOU paid into this insurance with every one of your paychecks and YOU are entitled to this money. For those who just got laid off in New Jersey, I’ll navigate you through the system so things go as smoothly as possible.
First off, you can now file a new claim for New Jersey unemployment benefits online. This is probably the easiest way to do it if you have access to a computer. However, if you have no computer, you can still apply for your benefits by phone. Answer all questions honestly because the state will contact your former employer to verify your information. To speed up the process, make sure you have the following information ready before you file an unemployment claim:
Your Social Security number
Your former employer’s name, address, and phone number
Any separation pay amounts, unused vacation pay, or lieu of notice pay
Your bank routing number if you want your checks deposited directly into your account
Your decision whether or not to have 10% in taxes taken out of your unemployment check
There are some conditions that could delay or deny your unemployment benefits in New Jersey, such as being fired from your job. Consult the NJ Department of Labor website for other eligibility and qualification requirements. If you are eligible, you should start getting checks within 1-2 weeks of being laid off. Lump sum severance pay and unused vacation pay will NOT delay your benefits in New Jersey. But if you received lieu of notice pay from your job, that will delay your unemployment benefits for however many weeks you received. Should you be denied unemployment benefits, you have the right to appeal the decision.
Once you file your claim, you may receive a letter from the state instructing you to attend a reemployment orientation workshop. This workshop will teach you how to file your weekly unemployment benefits as well as tips on how to look for a job and what services the reemployment center has available. You must attend this workshop or you could delay or even lose your unemployment benefits. In fact any appointments, either by phone or in person, must be kept or else you run the risk of interfering with your unemployment benefits.
When you get your check every two weeks, you will be instructed when to file your next claim. Again, this can be done via the Internet or phone. I found the Internet to be a lot easier. You will be asked if you were looking for work, if you were ready for work, if you worked and how much you made. Once you answer the questions, your claim has been filed and check arrives within 2 days. Should there be any discrepancy in your answers, you will be instructed when to call to speak to a claims agent regarding any issues. Be patient on the phone. New Jersey unemployment rate is over 7% and you could be on hold for quite a while! In fact, they now have Saturday hours because of all the unemployment claims being filed in New Jersey.
New Jersey is probably one of the better states for unemployment benefits. The maximum benefit rate is now $584 for up to 26 weeks. And you can work part time while collecting. If you earn under 20% of your weekly benefit rate, you will still receive a full unemployment check. If you earn more than 20%, that amount is subtracted from your partial benefit rate. New Jersey also gives you the opportunity to go back to school and retrain for a more in demand field. The tuition waiver program will pay for your tuition to attend a county or state college in New Jersey. Make sure you speak to someone at a One Stop Career Center to let them know you are interested in going back to school. If you enroll in a state approved training program, your are eligible for Additional Benefits during Training (ABT). You can get up to 26 additional weeks of unemployment benefits with ABT. Enrolling in school without the state approval can put your unemployment benefits in jeorpardy.
Anyone who files an unemployment claim after May 7, 2006 in New Jersey is eligible for extended benefits. There have been two federal extensions for people collecting unemployment in New Jersey, totaling 20 extra weeks. You do NOT have to fill out extra paperwork or make additional phone calls regarding these extensions. You will receive a letter in the mail from the state informing you that a claim has been filed on your behalf.
It’s tough being out of work. But thankfully we have unemployment insurance to help bridge the gap between jobs. I hope this article helps my fellow New Jerseyans go through these rough times.