TRENTON — New Jersey is extending unemployment benefits 20 more weeks for people who have exhausted their state and federal claims.

Claimants will be automatically enrolled into the extension after their federal extension ends.

The state Labor Department said New Jersey met the federal threshold for awarding 20 additional weeks because the unemployment rate hit 15.2% in May.

The 20 weeks is on top of the 26 weeks of state benefits and the 13 weeks of $600 weekly federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits that out-of-work residents have been entitled to during the public health emergency, which has resulted in more than 1.3 million people losing their jobs in New Jersey alone. Benefits since March have totaled more than $8.2 billion in state and federal funds.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for independent contractors, self-employed workers and others not usually eligible for unemployment insurance will have benefits until December. The $600 weekly federal check will continue until July 25.

New Jersey's unemployment system was overloaded with claims early in the pandemic, resulting in thousands of people waiting weeks to receive their benefits. Last month, however, Gov. Phil Murphy said that more than 94% of claimants had received their benefits.

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