The maximum length of time for receiving unemployment benefits in New Jersey varies according to several factors, especially the availability of federal benefits. Through 2011, for example, federal benefits substantially increase the usual maximum duration of benefits. The possible expiration of federal benefits at the end of 20011 would cap the timeframe for receiving benefits as established by state law.
In times of relatively low unemployment, you can receive unemployment benefits in New Jersey for up to 26 weeks. Your benefits might last for less than that depending on how much time you spent working during your base period, which is the first four of the five most recently completed calendar quarters. For every week you worked up to 26 weeks, you can receive a week of unemployment benefits at a rate determined by your earnings.
You can receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits under New Jersey's Extended Benefits program if the state unemployment rate is at 6.5 percent or higher. You can receive 20 weeks of Extended Benefits when the unemployment rate is at 8 percent or higher. As of May 2011, it was at 9.4 percent. In many states, Extended Benefits are part of the temporary federal benefits program and would potentially be unavailable starting in 2012. But New Jersey has opted to keep Extended Benefits in place, even when federal benefits expire, for all recipients who worked at least 20 weeks during their base period.
Through 2011, the federal government has funded extensions that allow New Jersey residents to collect unemployment for up to 99 weeks counting regular benefits and Extended Benefits. The 53 weeks of federal benefits, formally known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation, fall into four tiers. All four tiers are available in states, such as New Jersey, with unemployment rates of 8.5 percent or worse. States lose the fourth tier, consisting of up to six weeks, if the rate drops below 8.5 percent; they lose the third tier, up to 13 weeks, if the rate falls below 6 percent. The first two tiers, lasting up to 20 and 14 weeks, are available as long as federal benefits remain in place. Your total benefits in each tier are a percentage of your total regular benefits; thus if your regular benefits lasted less than 26 weeks, each tier of federal benefits would last for less than the maximum duration.
Congress must approve an extension before federal benefits run out on Jan. 3, 2012. If Congress chooses not to extend those benefits, you can collect them past that date only until you get to the end of your tier. If you are on Tier I at the deadline, you can still collect up to 20 weeks but cannot move on to Tier II. When you reach the end of your tier and your federal benefits have expired, you can potentially receive Extended Benefits for 13 or 20 weeks depending on the unemployment rate at the time. With federal benefits in place, the order in which you receive your benefits is: regular state benefits, then all available tiers of Emergency Unemployment Compensation, then Extended Benefits.