Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver on Thursday announced the Democratic-controlled Legislature will approve legislation on Jan. 9 to extend federal unemployment benefits to longtime unemployed New Jerseyans.
With New Jersey’s unemployment rate still hovering around 9 percent and 15,000 individuals applying for benefits last week, Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Oliver (D-Essex) said they welcome the federal extension to help New Jerseyans trying to find work.
The legislation, which is being drafted, would implement the option provided under legislation signed by President Obama last week, which will extend federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits until Feb. 29, two months after they were set to expire.
The Legislature unanimously passed similar legislation (S-2680/A-3795) earlier this year after the federal government extended UI benefits until Tuesday. The legislation was signed by Gov. Chris Christie in April. Sweeney and Oliver said the new legislation that will be introduced will include a trigger that will automatically extend the benefits at the state level should the federal government extend them again at any future date.
The continuation of benefits will incur no costs to New Jersey’s unemployment fund or employers in the state because the federal act provides 100 percent federal funding of the benefits throughout the extension.
"With thousands of New Jerseyans still desperately seeking work, ensuring they can take full advantage of the extended federal benefit is the right thing to do," Sweeney said. "Not only will these benefits keep the unemployed and their families afloat during this difficult period, but they are also the best form of economic stimulus. This is money that goes right back into the economy."
“With the economy only showing intermittent signs of recovery, the federal extension of unemployment benefits is a life-saver for many New Jersey families,” Oliver said. “Businesses, while signaling that they intend to start hiring in the New Year, have yet to do so in a healthy enough dose to make a considerable dent in our statewide unemployment rate, making the extension of these benefits all the more imperative.”
Sweeney and Oliver said they hope to have the legislation ready for introduction when both houses reconvene on Jan. 5.