New Jersey Unemployment Benefits
The unemployment insurance program in NJ is designed to provide financial support to those who lose jobs for no fault of their own. The state’s UI benefits activities are handled by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD). The funds for UI benefits are collected in the form of payroll taxes from employers and workers.
The unemployment benefits will partially compensate your wages with an intention to help you with your financial responsibilities while looking for employment opportunities. To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must meet the required eligibility criteria as set by the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law.
Eligibility to Apply for UI Benefits in New Jersey (NJ)
The DLWD has established the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits. The first step to applying for unemployment benefits is to know the eligibility criteria for UI benefits. Lack of information or misinformation regarding the eligibility will lead to cancelations of UI benefits.
Eligibility for unemployment benefits in NJ depends on two factors- monetary eligibility and reason for separating from the previous organization. Please note that you must adhere to the rules and regulations of the DLWD throughout. Even after qualifying for benefits. If at all, you do not maintain your eligibility, you will end up losing your eligibility for unemployment.
To be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits, you must have earned a minimum prescribed wage during the base period. A base period is a duration of one year in which the applicants have worked and have earned wages. Monetary eligibility in NJ is based on the wages earned by the applicants during the base period.
The state uses two methods to calculate the wages earned in the base period- regular base period and alternative base period.
Regular Base Period
To calculate the wages of the applicants, the DLWD will first use the regular base period method. It is the first four of the last five calendar quarters. The wages earned during this period will be used to examine if the applicant is eligible or not.
For instance, if you file your initial claim in April 2019, your base period will start from January 2018 and last till the end of December 2018.
To gain monetary eligibility, applicants must have the following qualifications:
- During the base period, the applicant must have earned $172 per week for 20 or more weeks in covered employment during the base period or
- The applicant must have earned an overall wage of at least $8,600 in covered employment
The wages earned by the applicant during the base period will determine the weekly benefits amount he/she may receive.
Alternative Base Periods
If in the event, you don’t qualify for UI benefits through the regular base period calculation, you will automatically be considered for alternative base period calculations. The state of New Jersey is perhaps one of the few states to have two alternative methods instead of one.
The first alternative base period method includes wages earned in the last four completed calendar quarters before the date of your claim. The second alternative base period calculation considers the last three quarters before the date of the claim along with the weeks in the current filing quarters up to your first date of claim.
The reason for separating from your previous organization will play a major role in determining your eligibility factor for UI benefits. As per the DLWD, only people who have lost their jobs for no fault of their own will be eligible for unemployment benefits.
If your reason for leaving the previous organization is not due to the lack of/shortage of work, a claims examiner will set up a fact-finding interview by either phone or email to find out if you are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, you must satisfy the below conditions:
- You must not have lost your job due to your fault.
- You must not have quit the job voluntarily, without any work-related reasons.
- You were not fired from your previous organization due to misconduct.
- You were not involved in any illegal or unethical activities in your previous organization.
The claims examiner will contact your employer to verify your claims. If the reason given by you doesn’t match with that of your employer, you may cease to be eligible for unemployment benefits.
There are some additional eligibility criteria that must be fulfilled by the applicants once they start receiving UI benefits. Claimants must maintain their eligibility throughout their benefits period to receive benefits without any stoppages.
In order to receive benefits every week without any stoppage, you must fulfill the following requirements:
- Applicants must be mentally and physically able to work throughout the base period
- Applicants should actively be seeking new employment opportunities. They are expected to submit a job search report every week, detailing about all the employers they met in the week seeking for a job
- Applicants are expected to be available for work at all times during the benefits period
- Applicants must not reject any suitable job offers made during the benefits period
- Applicants must keep up with all the appointments with the DLWD. Missing ay appointments might lead to the stoppage of weekly benefits
To summarize, applicants must be on a look-out for a new job opportunity and must accept a suitable offer made to them. They must also fulfill all the meetings, interviews, or training obligations with the DLWD. If any of these are not fulfilled by the applicants, the DLWD may stop their weekly benefits.
How to Apply For UI Benefits in New Jersey?
To apply for UI benefits in NJ, applicants must carry the following documents:
You can apply for benefits through an online portal or by placing a telephone call to DLWD.
Submitting applications through the online portal is one of the most convenient options for applicants in NJ. Follow the steps given below to know how to apply online:
- Create an account in the DLWD online portal page and complete your account registration
- Once you complete setting up your account and log in to your account, you will have access to the ‘Unemployment Insurance Dashboard’. The dashboard will assist you in submitting a new application or to submit your weekly application
To submit your applications through a phone call, you could call the following numbers:
- North New Jersey: 201-601-4100
- Central New Jersey: 732-761-2020
- South New Jersey: 856-507-2340
- Out-of-state claims: 888-795-6672 (you must call from a phone with out-of-state area code)
- New Jersey Relay: 711
How to File Weekly Claims
You will file your first claim on a Sunday, and the first time you claim benefits will be on a Wednesday, which will be 17 days after your date of claim.
You must follow the below-mentioned steps to file your weekly benefits:
- Log into your account
- You must certify for benefits, wherein you will submit your weekly job search report and other documents that would attest your qualification for the benefits
- You are required to create a PIN if you are certifying for benefits for the first time
- Receive an email confirmation of filing a claim in the given week
UI Benefits Amount
Use the Unemployment Insurance Benefits Calculator to find out the approximate UI Benefits amount that you may receive in the state of New Jersey.
Things to Know After Filing An Application
Applicants must be aware of certain important information such as overpayments and fraud to make sure that there are no hindrances in the benefits period. Also, having sufficient information about training programs will help applicants in improving their competence in the job market.
Overpayments and Fraud
As per the DLWD, the overpayment occurs when you receive UI benefits to which you were entitled. In such a scenario, you are expected to return the excessive amount you received back to the DLWD.
The department will send you a notice as soon as they identify an overpayment. The notice will contain the reason why the DLWD considers any payment made as an overpayment. It will also mention the total amount that is considered an overpayment, and about your right to appeal against the decision of the department if you do not agree with the decision.
If the overpayment is justified by the court, you are expected to make the payment to DLWD. To make the payment, you can use the ‘E-Payment Service for Benefit Overpayment’ website launched by the DLWD.
To use this e-payment service, you will need the following documents:
- Claimant ID number
- Your social security number
- A valid credit card or a bank account
If you have a balance that is yet to be paid, it may be submitted to the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The unpaid debt records of the claimants are submitted to the IRS to collect any federal payments to offset the outstanding debts. This method will only be employed if all other attempts failed and that the DLWD is left with no other option to recover the outstanding debt.
In the event, if any applicant received overpayments by wilfully withholding important information, or by lying, forging or manipulating important information, it will be considered as fraud. The DLWD takes matters of fraud very seriously and if proven guilty of fraud, the applicant will be made to face grave consequences.
To identify fraud, the DLWD conducts a random audit to investigate your payroll records, eligibility status, job-search reports, etc., among other details. You may also be called for an interview if your case gets picked for a spot check.
Note that the DLWD will consider that you are committing fraud if you indulge the following activities:
- You knowingly fail to report all your earnings or you report false data with the hope of receiving more UI benefits
- You fail to provide the correct reason for your unemployment
- You submit fake documents to the DLWD
- You fail to report to DLWD that you have returned to work
- Someone else other than yourself certifies for UI benefits on your behalf, with your approval
- You take up somebody else’s identity to file for UI benefits
- You hide/lie about any facts that would make you ineligible for unemployment benefits in New Jersey
If it is found that you are indulging in fraudulent activities, the consequences you face will be as follows:
- You will face criminal prosecution and imprisonment
- You will have to pay fines and penalties
- Your state or federal income tax refunds may be submitted to satisfy the money you owe to DLWD
- You could be denied unemployment benefits in the future
The federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) is not available in the state of New Jersey as of 2019. Contact your local unemployment office to find out about the reemployment programs offered in NJ before you complete your benefits period.
Job Training Assistance
The state of New Jersey provides ample opportunities for job seekers to improve their skills or to learn a new one to improve their competency in the job market. The state offers various training programs in this respect and some of the most sought-after training programs in the state are:
Trade Adjudgement Assistance (TAA): This is a federal program that is intended to help those who have lost their jobs due to foreign trade. People who have lost jobs due to any reason that is related to international trade. The TAA program is designed to give an opportunity to these workers to acquire the skills and support required to become reemployed.
Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA): The WIOA program along with the New Jersey Opportunity Partnership Program offers to cover the cost of training for job-seekers. Both programs offer to cover a part of all the training cost, provided if the training takes place in New Jersey.
Workforce Development Partnership (WDP): Under this program, qualified unemployed job-seekers may get an extra 26 weeks of benefits to complete approved training programs that extend beyond the regular unemployment period. Job-seekers are required to get approval from an employment counselor to enroll for WDP.
The interested individuals must inform DWLD that they are interested in training within 60 days of the last day worked, 30 days from the time the DWLD informs of the ABT program, or 30 days from the time the job-seekers and their counselors make an employability plan, whichever date is last.
Self-enrolled training: In order to be able to collect benefits while attending a training program, you must make sure that the training program is approved by the DLWD.
The DLWD will approve the training program that you want to self-enroll to if the following conditions are met:
- The training must be for ‘labor demand occupation’ which will enhance your skills and the chances of earning a better wage
- The training could be either vocational or remedial or a combination of both
- The training program must be full-time. If a part-time program is chosen, the applicants must be available and be actively seeking for work
- The training center must meet all the state and local requirements
Note that the approved training cannot be on-the-job training or any other training program provided by an employer where you are also paid wages.