Many businesses and schools have or will be closing due to the Corona-Virus. While some New Jersey workers can still perform their job duties and responsibilities from home, others cannot and will be temporarily or permanently separated from their employment. For those people who are separated from their employment for COVID-19 related reasons, there are various local, state or federal governmental run programs that provide for paid benefits to impacted workers. For New Jersey employees who find themselves unemployed due to COVID-19, they two programs that could provide for temporary relief are New Jersey Unemployment Insurance and the “Emergency Paid Leave Act of 2020” program that was passed into law late Friday night.
New Jersey Unemployment Insurance Law provides for unemployment benefits for employees who are separated from their work due to no fault of their own. Employees who are unable to perform their job duties and responsibilities at home during a Corona-Virus related business closing may be eligible to collect unemployment benefits if they meet all other eligible requirements, including the minimum earnings requirement. Benefits under the New Jersey Unemployment Insurance program are available up to 26 weeks per year. Eligible employees are paid 60% of his or her average weekly wage earned during the base year, with a maximum week benefit up to $713. The current maximum total benefit for one worker to receive is $18,538 for 26 weeks of unemployment.
Workers who become eligible to receive unemployment benefits are required to be show they are (1) able to work; (2) actively seeking work; (3) available for work: and did not refuse any offer of suitable work. While securing a new job during the Corona-Virus pandemic could prove very difficult, any person collecting unemployment benefits should still actively seek for work during their period of unemployment. This includes applying for any open and available jobs and keeping all documentation to prove he or she conducted a diligent job search efforts should the Department of Labor request the information relating to the job search.
New Jersey employees who are ineligible for unemployment benefits may be eligible for temporary paid benefits through the federal Emergency Paid Leave Act of 2020 program. This federally run program provides paid benefits for workers who leave work due to COVID-19 related reason from January 19, 2020 (the date of the first reported case) through one year of the bills enactment. Under the program, eligible employees will receive up to 2/3 of his or her average monthly earnings (based on the most recent year of wages or self-employment income) up to a cap of $4,000. Benefits will be paid to eligible workers monthly for up to three months.
The Emergency Paid Leave Benefits program will provide benefits for workers who:
- have a current diagnosis of COVID-19;
- are quarantined (including self-imposed quarantined) at the instruction of a health care provider, employer or governmental official;
- are caring for another person who has a current diagnosis of COVID-19 or is under a COVID-19 related quarantine; or
- are caring for a child or other individual who is unable to care himself or herself due to the closing of a school, child care facility or other care program because of COVID-19.
The program will be administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and operate in coordination with other relevant benefits and leave programs including state or local paid sick leave, unemployment benefits and other contract and collective bargaining agreements. The benefit amounts available are reduced in any amount received by the worker from other local, state or private paid leave benefits programs. States will be reimbursed by the federal government for the total amount of the offsets that are due to any state-run or state-mandated paid leave program.
Our employment lawyers will continue to monitor all federal and state legislation relating to employee’s rights and the COVID-19 virus. Should you or a loved one have a need for legal advice concerning any employment law or unemployment benefits related issue, please feel free to contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our unemployment lawyers. While our office has been closed due to the Corona-Virus, our employment attorneys and staff will be working remotely and can be made available for telephone and/or video consultations.