⚫ Who's eligible for unemployment benefits in New Jersey?

⚫ Can you collect unemployment if you quit?

⚫ How much can you collect on unemployment?

If you lose your job "through no fault of your own," you're eligible to receive up to 26 weeks of partial pay in the Garden State.

Unemployment insurance turned into a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of claimants during the coronavirus pandemic, and many became masters of the process after needing help month after month.

But if you're lucky enough to say that you've never been laid off from a job in New Jersey, here's a rundown of how things work, in case you ever find yourself in that unfortunate position.

⚫ Who's eligible for unemployment benefits in New Jersey?

William Andrew, Getty Images

Eligibility is based on two main factors: how much pay you've collected at your job, and why you're no longer working.

As of 2023, you must earn at least $260 per week for 20 or more weeks, or at least $13,000 total, during your "base year period," in order to be eligible for benefits.

Essentially, the base year connects to four calendar quarters prior to your claim. For example, claims filed in April 2023 are based on employment from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of 2022.

Unemployment insurance is mainly reserved for individuals who are laid off due to an employer's lack of work or decision to downsize.

⚫ Can I collect unemployment if I quit?

Even those who are fired for their actions, or those who quit, may be eligible to receive unemployment insurance. These types of claims need to be reviewed more carefully.

According to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, in most cases you cannot voluntarily quit a job and collect unemployment, but you may be able to collect if you can provide proof of "unsafe, unhealthful, or dangerous" working conditions, and that you had "no choice but to leave employment." The burden of proof is on the employee.

You could also receive benefits if your reason for leaving the job was related to domestic violence, or your spouse/civil union partner is a military member who's being transferred out of state.

Quitting for personal reasons — you're moving out of the area, for example — wouldn't make you eligible for benefits.

For those who are fired or discharged, a claims examiner will need to determine whether there was any "misconduct" connected to the separation.

Under a misconduct qualification from benefits, a claimant would have to wait five weeks for the possibility of receiving benefits. For a gross misconduct discharge — you were fired for committing a crime, for example — you could be disqualified indefinitely. In order to remove the disqualification, you'd have to work again for eight weeks, earn a certain amount of pay, and become unemployed again, through no fault of your own.

 ⚫ Steps for filing unemployment benefits in New Jersey

cell phone (Thinkstock)

You need to create an online account in order to file a claim over the internet. You enter your email address to receive a verification link, and at that page you'd enter your personal information.

The Department of Labor says to have a Social Security number and driver's license handy, as well as information about your former employer and the reason for separation.

You also have the option to file by phone.

DOL says customer service agents at the numbers below can accept your claim over the phone:

  •   North Jersey:  201-601-4100
  •   Central Jersey:  732-761-2020
  •   South Jersey:  856-507-2340

⚫ How much can I collect on unemployment?

In 2023, the maximum weekly rate in New Jersey is $830. That's up from $804 the year prior.

Your weekly benefit is calculated at 60% of the average weekly rate you earned during the base year that was used to determine eligibility. And you can receive that payment for up to 26 weeks.

The number of weekly payments is linked to how long you had been employed. If you only had the job for 20 weeks during your base year, you'd only be eligible for 20 weeks of payment. Even if you had worked in the same office for a decade, the maximum length of payouts is 26 weeks.

Payments are issued via direct deposit or prepaid debit card.

⚫ Do I have to look for work in order to receive benefits?

Getty Images
Getty Images

A claimant must attest every week that they are available for work, have not returned to work, and have not refused suitable work, as per federal law, a DOL spokesperson told New Jersey 101.5.

The weekly certification takes "just a few minutes" online, the Department said.

As part of the weekly questionnaire, you'll be asked whether or not you were "actively seeking work."

"You may be asked to furnish work search contacts with prospective employers at any time during the life of your claim," the DOL website says.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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