Can I get unemployment if I get severance, bonus and vacation pay?


Q. I was just let go from my employer. My position was sent overseas so it is a layoff. I am getting a severance package that includes severance pay, a bonus earned for working all of 2020 and unused vacation weeks. Can I still claim unemployment benefits? And must I tell them about all 3 of the above? Even if I don’t know what the total amount of bonus or vacation days is? I do know the severance amount at this time.
— Out of work

A. We’re sorry to hear that you have been let go, but glad to hear you will be receiving a severance package.

The state of New Jersey does not consider severance pay to be income when calculating whether or not a person should be able to receive unemployment benefits, said Joseph Sarnecki, a certified financial planner with U.S. Financial Services in Fairfield.

In addition to severance pay, the state’s Department of Labor says bonuses, vacation, holiday pay, Social Security benefits or pension payments from prior employers will not reduce the amount of unemployment you receive, Sarnecki said.

Therefore, yes, you can claim benefits.

“However, when you can collect will depend on how you are receiving your payments,” he said. “If multiple payments are being made through their payroll system, Labor may delay benefits. If you receive a lump sum package, you would be able to apply for benefits immediately.”

Therefore, if possible, you should request your severance in a lump-sum to not remain on the active payroll, he said.

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This story was originally published on March 12, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.