The Labor Department is extending unemployment benefits for an extra 20 weeks. Now eligible workers can get a total of 59 weeks of benefits.
The update was first reported Wednesday by NJ Advance Media.
The report also said that gig workers, independent contractors and the self-employed will be eligible for an additional seven weeks, bringing their maximum benefit period to 46 weeks.
These kinds of workers are asking why their extension is limited.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) — the coronavirus relief program under which they qualify for benefits — only allows for the extra seven weeks, the Department of Labor said.
It’s how the program was designed, agency spokeswoman Angela Delli-Santi said.
“Independent contractors, who normally would not qualify for unemployment because neither they nor their employer contributed to the fund from which benefits are drawn, are eligible under the CARES Act for 26 weeks of benefits plus 13 weeks of extended federal benefits plus seven weeks of state extended benefits, for a total of 46 weeks,” she said.
The cost of these benefits is half covered by the federal government and half covered by the state.
Gig workers are also eligible for an extra $600 weekly benefit, which is funded by the federal government and runs through the week ending July 25.
The extended benefits announced Wednesday kicked in because the state hit certain benchmarks set by the federal government, including a high rate of unemployment, which was 15.2 percent in May, the state said.
More than 1.3 million workers have applied for unemployment benefits in New Jersey, and 1.1 million, or 96% of those deemed eligible, have received at least one payment, the Labor Department said.
Last month, the Labor Department said it would replenish the state’s unemployment fund for August, September, and October with $1.7 billion in federal borrowing.
So far, the state has paid out $2.9 billion in state unemployment benefits and $6.2 billion in federal benefits through the CARES Act, the agency said.