I was offered voluntary severance. Can I get unemployment benefits?

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Q. What happens with unemployment benefits for people who were offered a voluntary severance package due to COVID-19? I’ve been offered a package but I can’t get a clear answer about what happens to unemployment.
— Out of work soon

A. We know it’s hard to get through on the phone to get answers about unemployment claims.

In New Jersey, you can apply for unemployment even if you receive a severance package, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

But, the benefits may not be available until after the severance pay has expired because it would be considered “salary continuation,” she said.

“Your severance extends your employment relationship and is considered to be wages,” she said. “If you receive the severance as a lump sum, then you likely can file and start collecting unemployment benefits. You might want to negotiate your severance for this to happen.”

You can read more about the issue on New Jersey’s Labor Department website.

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This story was originally published on Sept. 11, 2020.

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