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unemployment benefits period
COURTESY RICH HUNDLEY III Rob Asaro-Angelo, the commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, speaks during a Thursday, May 21 press briefing in Trenton.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

New Jersey is going to provide an extension in benefits to eligible unemployed people whose benefits have run out, as the state records its highest-ever recorded unemployment rate to date.

This weekend, the state will begin notifying unemployed people of a 13-week extension in benefits, Workforce and Labor Development Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo said Thursday.

Between May 10 and May 16, the department received 44,365 new unemployment claims, bringing the total for that week to 1,130,839 claims.

As of May 16, New Jersey had distributed $3.4 billion in unemployment aid: $1.4 billion in state aid and $2 billion in federal aid.

New Jersey lost 750,700 jobs in April, at the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak. The state’s unemployment rate reached 15.3 percent that month, up from 3.8 percent in March.

Just 10 months ago, the state was seeing its lowest unemployment rate since New Jersey began tracking that data. Now, the state is seeing its highest recorded unemployment rate, Asaro-Angelo said.

The application process for unemployment claims during the COVID-19 outbreak has been hampered by large call volume, a shortage of staff, and a decades-old computer system.

Since 2008, staffing numbers in the department have dropped by 25 percent, Asaro-Angelo noted.

He cautioned applicants to be careful when filling out the employment application. Last week, 33,000 people answered the application questions in a way that caused their applications to be delayed. “One wrong click is all it takes to see a pause in these much-needed benefits,” he said.

He anticipated that by the middle of June, the state will be processing 1 million applications a week.

Asaro-Angelo reiterated that all residents and employers will get the benefits that they are entitled to.

“This is a tsunami unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and you will get every penny that’s coming to you,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Today’s numbers

New Jersey officials reported 1,304 additional COVID-19 positive cases today, down from the 1,670 reported Wednesday, bringing the state total to 151,442.

Officials also reported 98 new deaths related to the virus, down from 168 new deaths reported on Wednesday, bringing the state total to 10,843.

Hospitalizations continue to go down. Officials reported 3,208 total patients at 10 p.m. Wednesday, down from 3,405 on Tuesday night. There were 896 patients in critical care and 700 ventilators in use, down from 969 patients and 750 ventilators.

Admissions went down and discharges went up, with hospitals seeing 143 new admissions and 286 live discharges on Wednesday, compared to 261 new admissions and 282 discharges.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said that as of Thursday, the state had 19 recorded cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. The ages of the children range from one year to 18 years.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, Essex County reported 28 new cases and eight new deaths, bringing the county total to 16,980 cases and 1,579 deaths. The day before, the county reported 208 new cases and five additional deaths.

Montclair health officials revised their case numbers from 406 to 405 on Wednesday due to one case being found to be from outside Montclair’s jurisdiction. The number of deaths as of Wednesday remained at 47. Today’s numbers were not yet available.