Thousands of state workers are scrambling to take mandatory furlough days in the next three weeks, or risk losing the extra $600 federal benefit under the CARES Act.

The rush to take days off could leave several state agencies understaffed as more services are being restored and New Jersey recovers from pandemic shutdowns. Senate President Steve Sweeney proposed a furlough plan weeks ago, but it was rejected by Gov. Phil Murphy in favor of a negotiated deal with the Communications Workers of America. Had Sweeney’s plan been adopted, workers could have spread out furlough days and lessened the impact on the state agencies. State workers are required to take 12 unpaid days off, with 10 of them covered by state unemployment benefits. Workers would also be eligible for the additional federal payments.

Under the CARES Act, the additional $600 was to be paid through July 31 but New Jersey will only pay the benefit through the week ending Saturday, July 25. Any workers who schedule their furlough days after that date would not receive the additional stipend.

The deadline impacts all unemployed workers in New Jersey, not just public sector employees.

If you are a state worker, how you answer questions on the New Jersey Department of Labor website affects your eligibility and how quickly your benefits will be processed.

Here is how the CWA recommends you answer eligibility questions to qualify for your maximum benefit.

Note: To speed your claim processing, you will need your “State Employer Payroll Number.” This can be found on your ECAT. It’s in the box on the top left titled “Payroll/Unit Number."

  • Question 1.5: “When you worked in New Jersey, did you live out of state?”
    If you live out of state and work in New Jersey, select “Yes”.
    “If ‘Yes’ will you continue seeking work in NJ?””
    Select “Yes
  • Question 3.1: “Are you ready, willing and able to immediately work full-time?”
    Answer “Yes
  • Question 3.6: “Are you a member of a union?”
    Answer “Yes” (All CWA-covered state employees should answer “yes.”)
    If Yes, do you seek work through a Union hiring hall?
    Answer "No"

You will then be asked several “Employment Information” questions to determine eligibility.

  • “Are you still employed by this employer?”
    Answer “Yes” and the reason “Reduction in Hours by Employer"
  • “Please select your reason for separation from this employer”
    Select “Other – COVID-19 related
  • Do you expect to be recalled by this employer?
    Answer “Yes
  • Do you have a definite date of recall?
    Answer “No
  • What was the last day you worked for this employer?
    Enter the last day you actually worked before your first day of furlough
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