On July 1, 2003, New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey signed into law P.L.2003, c.107. The law, which may be found on the internet as Assembly Bill 3702 with Senate floor amendments (http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2002/Bills/A3500/3702_R1.PDF), does the following with respect to unemployment insurance (UI) benefits:
Requires the New Jersey Labor Department to provide UI benefits to any laid-off part-time worker who is available for part-time work (previously, the UI law provided UI benefits to a part-time worker only if there is (unspecified) "good cause" for the worker being available only for part-time work and "there exists in his work locality a sufficient amount of suitable work to justify such limitation"). This provision of the new law is estimated to increase the number of laid-off workers receiving UI benefits by between 1,400 and 2,800 and increase annual UI benefit costs by $2.9 million to $5.9 million.
Increases, during the two year period from July 1, 2003 until June 30, 2005, the number of weeks of regular UI benefits to 100% of a claimant's "base weeks" (weeks during the year before layoff in which the claimant earned at least $103 per week), up to a maximum of 26 weeks (previously, the UI law made claimants eligible for only 75% of their base weeks). This increases regular UI benefits by as much as one third and also increases federal extended UI benefits, which are now 50% of regular UI benefits (not, as is widely believed, 13 weeks in all cases). This will, each year, increase estimated UI benefits for between 58,500 and 73,800 laid-off workers who now exhaust benefits in less than 26 weeks and increase annual New Jersey UI benefit costs by an amount estimated to be between $47.8 million to $52.4 million. The average claimant receiving added benefits because of the new law will receive between 2 and 3 weeks of additional benefits.
The bill also continues New Jersey's payroll tax on employers and workers to fund the Health Care Subsidy Fund, which reimburses hospital for part of their expenses for providing care to patients without health insurance (New Jersey law prohibits hospitals from refusing to provide care to people unable to pay for it). This health care payroll tax of $325 million over the next 12 months, is linked to an identical reduction in UI payroll taxes. Finally, the bill modifies the UI tax schedules to prevent an increase in UI taxes. More information about the $325 million health care tax and the history of UI benefits and UI taxes in New Jersey may be found on pages 22 through 30 of the following document: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/legislativepub/budget/labor04.pdf.
The floor amendment to A-3072 which provided the UI benefit enhancements indicated above were put forward by State Senator Stephen Sweeney, who had previously introduced separate legislation with the indicated benefits, S-2604, which is available at: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2002/Bills/S3000/2604_I1.PDF. S-2604, however, differed in that it: (1) made the 100% of base weeks provision permanent, (2) prohibited the privatization of the One Stop Career Centers; and (3) established an economic self sufficiency standard for use in State and federal job training programs. Those additional provisions were deleted from the floor amendments to A-3702 as a compromise to win acceptance of the UI enhancements.