More than a million people have filed unemployment claims in New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials said.
"This is an unemployment crisis unlike that which we have ever seen," Gov. Phil Murphy said during a news briefing on Thursday.
Weekly jobless claims are, literally, many times more than the state Labor Department has historically dealt with across entire months, Murphy said.
Murphy described the coronavirus epidemic as a "once in forever" health-care crisis and economic crisis.
In two months, New Jersey has paid out $1.9 billion in state and federal assistance to 700,000 unemployed, underemployed and furloughed residents, officials said.
The state Labor Department is still processing 300,000 unemployment claims — or one-third — from the more than 1 million residents who have filed for the benefits. About 9 million people live in New Jersey.
State Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said the state is averaging 155,000 new claims a week and unemployment office workers are trying to help residents submit qualified claims as quickly as possible.
Last week, the state Labor Department processed an additional 72,000 federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims.
Countless residents complain they’ve waited for weeks — sometimes longer than six weeks — to get paid. Many say they’ve struggled to get through to the state’s busy phone and online unemployment systems.
Murphy acknowledged the widespread concerns on Thursday, saying: “We understand completely the frustration. The pain runs deep.”
In a separate development, Murphy said he has asked the state National Guard to respond to some of the state's hardest hit long-term care facilities. More than 4,500 LTC patients have died from coronavirus, the governor said. That's more than half the state's total COVID-19 deaths of 8,800.
The first of 120 National Guard members will be deployed on Friday, said state Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. They will provide nursing care, help sanitize facilities and manage personal protective equipment, she said.
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