More than one million New Jersey residents have filed for unemployment in the seven weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and 700,000 claims have been processed totaling $1.9 billion, according to Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo.
About 93 percent of those approved receive their benefits from two weeks and 97% receive them within three weeks, the labor commissioner said during Gov. Phil Murphy’s Thursday news conference.
Asaro-Angelo has been criticized due to complaints from residents who said they have waited weeks for benefits. Assemblyman Kevin Rooney, R-Wyckoff, called for him to resign. Murphy commended Asaro-Angelo and said, “Rob’s not going anywhere.”
“This is an unemployment crisis unlike that which we have ever seen,” Murphy said. “Weekly claims are, literally, many times more than Department of Labor has historically dealt with across entire months. We’ve heard you loud and clear. We know you’re frustrated but let’s get through this together.”
A page was added to the state’s COVID-19 website for anyone with questions about unemployment.
Unemployment claims rose dramatically as businesses shut down after Murphy issued a stay-at-home order and declared a state emergency as the number of COVID-19 cases increased.
The number of New Jersey residents hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped below 5,000 for the first time in weeks. Health officials continue to report decreases in the number of new cases reported daily with 1,827 deaths reported on Thursday and 255 fatalities reported. Overall, the number of cases since the pandemic began is at 133,635 and 8,801 people have died from the virus.
“Our numbers continue to move in the right direction, but we cannot lull ourselves into thinking that all is well,” Murphy said. “We’re still in the midst of a public health emergency. These numbers are still far above what they would be in ‘normal times.’”
Health officials continue to focus on long-term care facilities. Murphy announced he is deploying members of the New Jersey National Guard to some facilities to offer nonclinical help to the staff there.
“We don’t take this step lightly, but the crisis in our long-term care facilities requires us to take it,” Murphy said.
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