Unemployment Insurance Explained

Unemployment Insurance Explained


Trenton – Over the course of the last year, the State of New Jersey has been inundated with unemployment insurance (UI) claims due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many individuals, understanding the different types of unemployment compensation can be a difficult process, with each program having different requirements.


To file a claim for UI benefits, please visit




In order to be eligible for any type of compensation, an individual seeking out a claim must have worked 20 base weeks, or have earned 1000 times the minimum wage, within the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters immediately prior to filing for benefits. A base week is a week in which a worker earns at least 20 times the minimum wage, which is $200 for the 2020 base year and $220 for 2021 base year.


Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

In an effort to assist workers during these unprecedented times, the PEUC provides an additional 48 weeks of unemployment compensation to all workers eligible to file UI claims. Benefits provided through the PEUC are fully federally funded and are paid out before any Extended Benefits (EB) a workers may be eligible for.


Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

PUA guarantees 74 weeks of unemployment compensation to a broader range of workers than what is typically covered by UI. This includes independent contractors and self-employed workers. If an individual can also claim regular compensation, EB or PEUC, the weeks they can claim those benefits will be subtracted from the 74 weeks of PUA benefits.


Extended Benefits

During times of economic hardship, there are mechanisms in place for extending benefits after an individual has used up a state’s primary UI program. Benefits are extended by one half the length of regular unemployment compensation, or 13 weeks, whichever is lower and half the cost is covered by the federal government. For New Jersey, this means an extension of 13 weeks. They can be extended up to 20 weeks in extremely high unemployment conditions. New Jersey is currently triggering 13-week extended benefits.


Temporary Program Modifications

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Department of Labor and the CARES Act are advising all states to interpret the requirement that a worker seeking unemployment compensation must be “able, available, and actively seeking” to work as broadly as possible. This is in recognition of the fact that there is likely limited available work due to the pandemic.


All programs are set to end on September 4, 2021, regardless of when a claim was started or how many weeks were claimed. Claimants on PEUC that are eligible for extended benefits will transition to those benefits instead provided they are still in place. PUA claimants are not eligible for extended benefits, which follow the same requirements as standard unemployment compensation.


In an effort to combat insurance fraud as the number of claims rose throughout the country, the American Rescue Plan provided an additional $2 billion to states administering unemployment, including fraud prevention activities. To prevent fraud within New Jersey, the state began a contract with ID.me, a security vendor that specializes in providing a multi-factor identity verification using an online, self-service application to assist in authenticating claims.


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