Tens of thousands of New Jersey workers will lose their extended unemployment benefits next month.

When the unemployment rate rises above 6.5%, the state Extended Benefits program kicks in with an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits.

New Jersey's unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6%, and as a result, the program is being canceled.

The cancellation will affect as many as 20,000 long-term unemployed. Even if you have qualified for the EB program, and a balance remains on that claim, no more payments will be sent out after April 9.

State Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo says this is actually good news, saying it shows New Jersey's economic recovery is well underway.

However, the commissioner says they are aware the end of the EB program could hurt some. "Knowing the end of these benefits will impact thousands of New Jersey families," Asaro Angelo said in a statement. "We remain committed to helping residents transition back into the workforce."

The EB program has paid out $1.3 billion in benefits since the start of the pandemic.

Labor officials say New Jersey has recovered about 90% of the jobs lost when Gov. Phil Murphy shut down the economy more than two years ago.

The Labor Department has come under intense criticism from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers for the way the record number of unemployment claims have been handled. There have even been calls for the commissioner to resign or be impeached and removed.

There are still thousands of unresolved claims.

Under pressure from the Legislature, the department has begun offering in-person assistance to some claimants who have unresolved issues, but they are on an appointment basis only.

Asaro-Angelo has defended his department and claims things are moving in the right direction.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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