What new pandemic relief means for NJ unemployment benefits
New Jerseyans are wondering when they might receive "second round" federal pandemic stimulus payments and extended unemployment, while also waiting to see if a state extension of jobless benefits might be signed by the governor before week's end.
Under the $900 billion pandemic recovery bill passed Monday night, federal unemployment insurance benefits would be extended for 10 weeks through mid-March with a $300 supplement payment each week, as reported by Bloomberg. Though half the amount, it's similar to the extra $600 supplement that expired at the end of July.
The relief bill was one of many included in a $2.3 trillion government funding package, all voted on at the same time.
It was some of the other funding measures that President Donald Trump listed in a video released to Twitter on Tuesday night. In the four-minute message, Trump said he was asking Congress to amend the relief bill and raise the "ridiculously low" stimulus payment of $600 "to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple."
Earlier on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin issued a statement that ended with, “We are fully committed to ensuring that hardworking Americans get this vital support as quickly as possible and to further strengthening our economic recovery."
Among the extended benefits is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), the program that covers self-employed, business owners and "gig workers," now in effect until March 14, 2021, as reported by National Law Review.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provided up to 13 additional weeks of jobless benefits to those who had exhausted their regular state benefits, was extended as well, now to 24 weeks.
Under the latest action, the same Law Review report says, eligible recipients in many states can now can now receive up to 50 weeks benefits between state programs and PEUC. The extended benefits are also available through March 14, 2021.
After March 14, 2021, new PUA or PEUC claims can no longer be submitted, but eligible people who were receiving benefits will continue until April 5, 2021, for a total of up to 50 weeks.
As for the state legislation that has been on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk since last week, when asked Monday if he would sign it, the governor said without getting into specifics on the bill, "Anything we can do to help folks who are unemployed right now count us in."
Murphy did not comment further on when he might sign the eight-week extension of unemployment benefits into law.
For some in New Jersey who have been collecting unemployment benefits since the first week of the state's shutdown amid the pandemic in March, their benefits will expire on Friday.
It remained unclear if there could be a gap in benefits, depending on when and if Trump signs the federal pandemic relief bill and when Murphy might sign the state legislation on extending unemployment benefits.
Unemployment insurance benefits are subject to federal income taxes, and New Jersey applicants are given the option of having 10% of weekly benefits withheld and sent to the Internal Revenue Service.
New Jersey residents who want to select or change such withholding status at any time can mail a request for change in withholding status form to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
As reported by CNBC, the pandemic stimulus also was set to include direct payments of up to $600 to eligible adults, plus $600 per child dependent younger than 16.
Murphy said Monday that the newly agreed upon stimulus package would be "undershooting" the needs of Americans. Murphy made his comments both in person at a state briefing and on Twitter, where he wrote, “Happy to see the House and Senate come to a #COVID19 relief agreement – but the job is not done. History will judge us harshly if we undershoot this moment. At $900 billion, we are undershooting. Our families, businesses, communities, and fellow states need more direct support.”
The IRS will use information from a filer's most recent tax return, from 2019 or 2018 for most, to determine eligibility.
According to Bloomberg, if a person was not eligible for a payment based on the most recent tax return on file at the IRS, but will be based on lower income in 2020, they can inform the IRS on tax returns filed in the spring.