Business Report: Unemployment assistance, utility bills, NJEA pensions

NJ lawmakers want to extend emergency unemployment benefits

With Congress yet to pass a new stimulus bill, New Jersey lawmakers are taking steps to try to help unemployed workers. The Assembly Labor Committee Monday released a bill that would provide eight weeks of emergency unemployment benefits for those who exhaust all their state and federal benefits. Benefits would be provided from Dec. 22 through the end of February. The bill would include self-employed or gig workers and others who don’t typically qualify for state benefits.

Due to the surge in unemployment, thousands of residents are behind on their utility bills. Commercial customers are also in arrears. Right now, there’s a moratorium on utility shutoffs, but the Board of Public Utilities wants to look at how customers can eventually pay back what they owe. As of Oct., that total was $442 million. The BPU will hold hearings on this early next year.

A new report finds fault with how the leadership of the NJEA, New Jersey’s largest teachers union, is handling pensions. Mike Lilley, head of the Sunlight Policy Center and someone who has been critical of the NJEA, says the pension plan offered to union leadership is superior to the one provided to teachers. We asked the NJEA for a response, and were told the organization believes the report is a political advocacy piece with many inaccuracies. However, Lilley says the leadership has a gold-plated, fully-funded plan, paid for by union dues, and that teachers should demand better.