In addition to its devastating health impacts, the coronavirus has impacted workers all over the state of New Jersey. Businesses have been shuttered, leaving people who’ve never before filed for unemployment uncertain of what to do.

The good news is that those who have already applied for unemployment benefits under the coronavirus stimulus package and who opted for direct deposit are already receiving an extra $600 a week, an those who chose to receive Bank of America debit cards will be receiving their benefits shortly. These checks are an additional unemployment benefit that provides funding beyond the state’s regular unemployment benefits, and this Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will be available through July 31st, even to gig workers, freelancers and independent contractors who would not normally qualify for the benefits.

Nearly 260,000 New Jersey residents received the first round of payments, and record numbers of workers are continuing to go through the process of requesting them. Unfortunately, the crush of applicants has created its own difficulties, and many people have questions about how to expedite the process. Below you will find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

Q. How do gig workers, freelancers and independent contractors get unemployment benefits if they can’t point to a previous employer on their application?

A. Though it may seem like a waste of time, people in this category of worker need to fill out the application and receive a denial in order to move on to the next step and receive guidance on what to do.

Q. I was told to call for unemployment and then got a recording telling me that the system is overloaded and they’re not taking any more calls. Iworry that delays are going to make me miss out on payments that I need.

A. The Unemployment Insurance system is trying to meet overwhelming demand, but though delays may occur, the benefits you receive will be retroactive.

Q. How do I certify for weekly benefits so that I can continue to receive payments?

A. Step-by-step instructions are available on the Department of Labor’s website,

Q. What kind of proof of previous employment will I need to qualify for benefits?

A. The best documentation will be your pay stubs for the previous 18 months, as well as your W-2. You should also provide contact information for previous employers so that they can confirm the information you provide.

Q. Am I entitled to more money if I was already receiving unemployment benefits?

A. You are probably eligible for the additional 13 weeks of benefits provided under the CARES Act. Look for information to arrive via email or regular mail. You do not need to reapply for benefits or submit any additional documentation at this time.

Q. Are the requirements to qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance the same as unemployment benefits?

A. In most cases, people who were furloughed, who did not qualify for regular benefits previously or whose unemployment benefits expired will be eligible for the 13-week Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for periods of unemployment that began on or after January 27, 2020.

Q. What do I do if I think that I qualify for benefits but was denied?

A. There is an online appeals process available.