Q. I am about to retire and start taking my New Jersey state pension. Can I receive unemployment benefits?
— State worker
A. Congratulations on your retirement.
If you’re curious about unemployment benefits, we wonder if you’re getting pushed out of your job rather than voluntarily retiring.
In any case, to be eligible for benefits in New Jersey in 2019, you must have worked at least 20 base weeks in covered employment or you must have earned $8,600, said Charles Pawlik, a certified financial planner and chartered financial analyst with Beacon Trust in Morristown.
He said for claims filed in 2019, the minimum base week amount is $172. Wages must have been earned during a 52-week period called a “base year,” which varies depending on the date of your claim – alternate base year periods may be considered.
“Generally speaking, you must be able to work, be available for work, be actively seeking work, and not refuse an offer of suitable work to be eligible for unemployment benefits,” he said.
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development website is a good resource to utilize to get more detailed information surrounding your eligibility for unemployment benefits. You can access the website here.
Assuming you meet the eligibility criteria to collect unemployment benefits, the amount that you may be able to collect can be affected by your pension.
“If you are receiving a pension from an employer whom your claim is based on, your unemployment benefits may be reduced,” Pawlik said. “The amount that your benefits may be reduced is determined by whether your employer contributed the entire amount towards your pension, you contributed the entire amount, or both you and your employer contributed towards the pension.”
He said if your employer contributed the entire amount towards your pension, your unemployment benefits may be reduced by 100 percent of your weekly pension amount.
Pawlik offered this example:
If your weekly pension amount is $300 and your weekly unemployment benefit amount is $400, 100 percent of your weekly pension amount would be subtracted from your weekly unemployment benefit, leaving you with $100 per week in unemployment benefits.
If both you and your employer contributed towards the pension, your unemployment benefits may be reduced by 50 percent of your weekly pension amount. Taking the same example, Pawlik said, the $400 weekly unemployment benefit would be reduced by $150 – 50 percent of the $300 weekly pension amount – leaving you with $250 per week in unemployment benefits.
“If you contributed the entire amount towards your pension and your employer contributed nothing, no reduction would be made to your unemployment benefits,” he said. “It would be a good idea for you to make an appointment with your local unemployment office and speak to a representative to clarify your eligibility for unemployment benefits based on your personal circumstances.”
Email your questions to Ask@NJMoneyHelp.com.
Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.
Can state worker collect unemployment and a pension at the same time?