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Did You Recently Lose Unemployment Benefits? Other Programs Can Help!

Unemployment Benefits

On September 4th, federal unemployment benefits ended, including:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)

You can still receive these benefits for weeks of unemployment prior to September 4, 2021, but not for any weeks after September 4. If you have a pending claim, are appealing a denial, or  have an appointment scheduled after September 4, you should continue to certify weekly and monitor your email for communication from the Division of Unemployment Insurance, as these weeks of benefits could still be payable to you after a decision is made.

State extended unemployment benefits will continue. You do not need to contact the Department of Labor to see if you are eligible. You will automatically be evaluated and, if you are eligible, the “Check Claim Status” screen on myunemployment.nj.gov will read “Extended Unemployment Benefits.” It may take up to two weeks for the determination to be made.

Other Help Is Available

New Jersey has programs to help you put food on the table and pay your bills. They include SNAP (food assistance), Work First New Jersey (cash assistance) and COVID-19 Rental Emergency Rental Assistance (rent and utility assistance).

Cash Assistance

If you have no income and are not receiving unemployment insurance, you might be eligible for monthly cash benefits through WorkFirst NJ.

Assistance to families with children is called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); assistance for adults who don’t live with dependent children is called General Assistance (GA).

To be eligible for WFNJ benefits, you must meet income and asset limits, and be a citizen or qualified immigrant. The amount of assistance is usually less than Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UIB), but the program can provide other support, such as childcare and emergency housing and utility assistance.

You can apply for WorkFirst NJ at www.njhelps.org.

Food Assistance

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

Pregnant women, new mothers, and children up to age five can receive help to buy food through the WIC program. Learn more at the Women, Infants & Children (WIC) website.

New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The SNAP program can help you pay for groceries by providing a “Families First” card, which works just like a debit card, that can be used to buy food at most grocery stores, convenience stores, and certain farmers markets. As of October 2021, the maximum monthly SNAP benefit is $250 for one person, $459 for two people, and more for larger households. The amount you get is based on your income and certain expenses, like rent and childcare. Some households may temporarily receive extra SNAP due to the pandemic.

Who is eligible for SNAP?

Most households with low or no income are eligible for SNAP. The basic guidelines are as follows:

  • Your income must be below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).unless you are over age 60 or have a disability; then you may qualify even if your “gross income” is a little higher than 185% FPL.
  • Spouses and children up to age 22 are always counted as part of your SNAP household if they live with you. If you live with other people, you do not need to apply together unless you buy and prepare most of your food together.
  • You must be  a US Citizen or meet  special immigrant status rules.
  • The Board of Social Services (also called “County Welfare Agency”) should not count income you are no longer getting. Unemployment benefits that have stopped only count in the month they were received. Your application should be based on the income you received or reasonably expect to receive this month and thereafter.

How do I use the Families First card? Can someone else shop for me if I’m sick or can’t get out to the store?

If you are approved for SNAP, you will receive a plastic “Families First” card that looks like a debit or credit card, with the name of the head of household printed on the card. You will need to create and use a Personal Identification Number (PIN) when you use the card. Everyone in the household has the right to use the card for food shopping. Grocery stores should not ask to look at the card or refuse to let you use it, as long as  you know the PIN. You can give your card to a trusted family member or friend to food shop for you if necessary. Federal rules say you do not need tell the SNAP office if you are giving people permission to make food purchases for you on an ad-hoc (as needed) basis.

How do I apply for SNAP and WFNJ benefits?

You can apply for SNAP and WFNJ any time. You can apply online or by phone. When county offices re-open to the public, you will also be able to apply in person. Before you begin, gather information like Social Security numbers, income and birthdays for the people in your household, rent or mortgage information, and medical expenses if you are elderly or disabled.

Apply online at www.njhelps.org. Applying online is usually the fastest way to start an application. If approved, you will receive benefits from the day you submitted the application. You can access the online application from any computer or mobile phone with internet access. The website has a short “screening tool” you can use to see if you might be eligible. The application itself should take 15-20 minutes to complete. You can start the application and save it to complete later, if you aren’t able to finish it all at once.

Apply by phone by calling your county social services agency. You can find your county information at the NJ Department of Human Services' NJ SNAP website. County welfare agencies can take a SNAP application and an application for cash benefits over the phone. During the COVID-19 state of emergency, it may be difficult to get through by phone and wait times may be longer than usual. A caseworker will go over the application with you and ask you to certify (or confirm) that the information is correct to the best of your ability. You should ask for a copy to be mailed to you so that you can review it and correct any mistakes.

You may receive a phone call or a letter asking you for more information or additional documents. These documents can be submitted by email, fax, mail or by dropping them off in a secure “drop box” at the Board of Social Services. If you apply online, you can submit documents online (upload them).

How long will it take to receive help?

If you have little or no income, or if your rent is more than your income, the SNAP agency should give you “expedited” SNAP benefits within seven days, even if they need more information to complete your application and provide benefits in the future.

If you are homeless or need help on an emergency basis, the WFNJ program can provide “immediate need” assistance while your application is pending.

What if I’m denied WFNJ or SNAP or I have a problem with my benefits?

If you are denied SNAP or cash benefits, or disagree with a decision made by the county agency, you can ask for a fair hearing to have the decision reviewed:

How do I get a fair hearing?

You can request a fair hearing in writing, or by calling the fair hearings hotline or the welfare office.

  • Call the state Fair Hearings Hotline at 1-800-792-9773
  • Put it in writing. If you received a notice, that notice will have a form to fill out for a fair hearing. You can mail that form back to the SNAP office and keep a copy for yourself.
  • Call the welfare office. Speak with your SNAP caseworker or with the fair hearing liaison and tell them that you want a hearing. Get the name of the person you speak to, and write it down. Ask them to send you a letter confirming that you asked for the hearing.

How much time do I have to ask for a fair hearing?

For a SNAP denial, you have 90 days from the date of the County Board of Social Services decision to ask for a fair hearing. ​​​​​​

Other Housing Assistance

Rent Assistance

If you are behind on rent, you can apply for the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CVERAP). This program can assist with rent that you currently owe (called rent arrears)and may also be able to assist temporarily with rent going forward, if you are unable to pay ongoing rent due to circumstances arising from the COVID-19 crisis. Apply online at the NJ Department of Community Affairs' NJ-DCA Portal page. Even if you have received help from the CVERAP or from another rental assistance program before, , you may still qualify if you owe more rent. CVERAP is a lottery program and applicants are picked every two weeks. The sooner you apply, the greater the chance that you will receive assistance.

There are other smaller rental assistance programs throughout the state. For more information visit the housing resources page, see Are there any rental assistance programs created or expanded in response to the pandemic?

Homeowner Assistance

The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency will soon have assistance available to homeowners through the Homeowners Assistance Fund. You can find more information on the NJHMFA website.

Utility Assistance

New Jersey has utility assistance programs available and more assistance will be available soon. You can apply for these programs through the NJ Department of Community Affairs DCAid website.

Still need help?

You can find more information and updates about SNAP and other benefits at Government Aid and Services. If you need help with your SNAP benefits and have more questions, you can call LSNJLAWSM, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529) for legal advice, information, and referral.​ You can also complete an intake form online.​​​​​

9/13/2021