Unemployment Claims Rise as Federal Relief Expires

If federal relief is not extended, it will be much harder for families to meet their basic needs.

Published on Jul 21, 2020 in COVID-19, Economic Justice

As New Jersey lawmakers cautiously reopen the state, unemployment insurance (UI) claims are back on the rise. To make matters worse, the federal relief provided in the Coronavirus Aid Response and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides an additional $600 in unemployment benefits for people who had lost their jobs because of the pandemic, expires this coming week on July 31, 2020.

Overall, the CARES Act contains many provisions that address the needs of laid-off workers, preventing families from experiencing severe financial harm. If this relief is not extended, it will be much harder for families to meet their basic needs, exacerbating poverty and worsening racial inequality. This won’t just hurt UI recipients and their families, it will hurt thousands more. The spending generated by that $600 is supporting over 1,000 jobs in New Jersey, meaning that these jobs will remain in the balance.

From mid-March through July 11, 2020 alone, New Jersey saw nearly 1.4 million UI claims and paid out approximately $10.7 million in benefits. In addition, nearly half a million more workers claimed Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a federal rapid response program for workers who are not eligible for regular UI, like independent contractors and temporary workers.  Towards the end of May through mid-June, jobless claims remained stable in the 20,000s; however, these claims have surpassed 30,000 and 40,000 in the past two weeks. This past week, the state received 37,000 new UI claims and 19,000 new PUA claims. The future prosperity of the nation — including New Jersey — relies on consistent federal relief to keep laid-off workers, their families, and the broader economy afloat until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.