In the past four weeks, more than 718,000 New Jersey workers have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment according to the NJ Department of Labor. This historic number has overwhelmed NJ’s unemployment system and resulted in delays in processing applications.

In response, NJ has implemented several changes to streamline the application process for the thousands of people unemployed, including reprogramming its 40‑year old COBOL‑based computer system to automatically accept 60% of claims and allowing benefits to be paid out sooner.

NJ has added additional phone lines to its call centers and distributed hundreds of laptops to its staff to process new claims while working from home, in the hopes of alleviating callers’ inability to get through to representatives. The NJ Department of Labor will now permit its unemployment appeal tribunal to hold virtual hearings to address a backlog of people who appealed a denial of unemployment benefits.

Finally, those having trouble applying should not despair, the New Jersey Department of Labor has emphasized that it will continue to backdate claims, so that, even if completing an application takes time, people will be paid back to their date of initial unemployment. Between March 2 and April 10, NJ has paid out $424.6 million in unemployment benefits.