TRENTON – Thousands of New Jersey residents could lose their unemployment benefits if Congress does not pass legislation to extend them.
That was the warning from Ron Marino, assistant commissioner of the state Labor Department, who testified before the Senate Labor Committee.
Currently, there are some 325,000 residents who are receiving unemployment checks, with another 25,000 in the process of filing for the benefits.
Over the course of next year, some 180,000 people could lose compensation they would have otherwise received, according to Labor Department officials.
The state unemployment insurance fund provides benefits to out-of-work residents for 26 weeks. Some 43 percent of all unemployment benefit recipients fall under this category.
Once residents exhaust those funds, the federal unemployment insurance benefits kick in, which for state residents could provide as much as 73 additional weeks of compensation.
Some 43 percent of check recipients receive “extended benefits” made possible by the federal government. However, inaction by Congress could wipe those funds out.
“They will not be permitted to go to another tier,” said Marino.
The extended benefits have bought insufficient time for some residents to land back on their feet. Marino said an estimated 1,800 residents have exhausted all 99 weeks of unemployment compensation.
The maximum check in New Jersey is $598, but in January it’s expected to rise to $611.
New Jersey still owes the federal government some $1.375 billion to carry out the regular 26-week state unemployment compensation program.
Marino said the state has been vigilant in going after people “collecting improper payments,” largely those who are working while collecting unemployment benefits.