NJ shutdown leaves public workers wondering if they can get unemployment
TRENTON — Thousands of state workers are scrambling to find out whether they will be able to recover the money they lost during the three-day government shutdown this week.
Gov. Chris Christie shut down the state government after the Legislature failed to adopt the annual budget by the deadline at midnight Saturday. Non-essential state services remained closed until a budget deal was reached Monday evening.
During the shutdown from July 1 to 3, nonessential workers were furloughed, meaning they will not get paid, the State Civil Service Commission said in a notice posted this week. July 4 was a paid holiday and was unaffected by the shutdown.
Any workers who were taking any paid leave, such as sick days or vacation during the three days of the shutdown will have those days returned to their balance of paid-leave days, the Civil Service Commission said.
A notice on the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development's website on Thursday said state workers who were not paid for days this week have to file for unemployment insurance benefits online by Saturday or by phone by 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Labor Department spokeswoman Karla Bardinas said Thursday that in order to qualify, a state worker's income for the week would have to fall below 72 percent of what they normally earn in a week, which starts on Sunday. The furlough began on Saturday, which means it was split between two pay weeks.
"If an employee’s weekly gross pay is more than $812 for the week beginning July 2, 2017, that employee is NOT eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits. This is a general rule of thumb, but this could vary depending on work schedule and wages."
Those who qualify for and receive unemployment benefits will have to pay it back if the state later awards back pay, Bardinas said.
When the government last shut down over a budget crisis in 2006, back pay for furloughed state workers was included in the late budget, costing the state an estimated $40 million to pay back 45,000 workers were out of work during the eight-day closure.
But that did not happen this time.
Christie said Monday that the Legislature would have to pass a law in order to provide the furloughed workers with back pay.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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