covid 19 variant

What to know about COVID-19 Delta-variant infecting the young and partially vaccinated   

The Delta coronavirus variant, which was first identified in India, is a variant of the original virus that swept the globe last year, only now it has evolved to become more infectious. Currently, the Delta variant has not been found to be more dangerous or deadly, however it’s high rate of infection among young and partially vaccinated people is concerning. 

According to an article by Business Insider, the Delta variant has taken over the UK, accounting for 95% of infections. In the U.S. the variant currently accounts for more than 20% of cases and this number is likely to grow. 

New Delta-variant symptoms to watch for 

Unlike the original strand of the COVID-19 virus, the Delta-variant is exhibiting different, milder symptoms which may go unnoticed. Instead of the hallmarks of COVID-19 such as shortness of breath and loss of taste and smell, the most common symptoms of the new Delta strain are headaches, a runny nose, and sore throat—symptoms that could be easily confused with the common cold. 

It is unclear, however, if these milder symptoms mean the disease itself is growing milder, or if this is simply how the new variant presents in young, healthy people or people who have been partially vaccinated. 

The biggest issue right now is the rate of infection. According to data collected by epidemiologist Tim Spector, approximately 19,000 people in the UK catch COVID-19 every day, most of which are young, and not fully vaccinated. 

The new Delta-variant is reportedly twice as infectious as the original virus, with each infected person transmitting it to 6 others or more. 

Even more worrying is that another strain, known as Delta-Plus, has emerged as well. 

“Delta Plus has an extra mutation called K417N, which distinguishes it from the regular Delta variant. This mutation affects the spike protein, the part of the virus that attaches to the cells it infects,” CNN reports

This mutation brings not only the increase in transmissibility that comes with the standard Delta-variant, but also stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and a potential reduction in antibody response. 

So far, Delta-Plus has been reported in 11 countries, with the U.S. reporting the highest number of cases so far, with 83 cases as of last week, followed by the UK which reported 40 cases. Other affected countries include Canada, India, Japan, Nepal, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey.

covid-19 vaccine

Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

Will the vaccine ward off this new strain? 

While the Delta-variant has been reported in partially vaccinated people, fully vaccinated individuals are still largely protected. Currently, the U.S. is using data from the UK to predict how the Delta-variant might spread. 

In the UK, where about 94% of individuals over the age of 70 are fully vaccinated, death-rates and infection-rates were low. However, the Delta strain is spreading quickly among younger populations and kids. 

The biggest concern is low-vax communities. Many communities, particularly lower class and ethnic communities, have disproportionately been affected by the virus and had greater trouble accessing vaccines. Due to language barriers and digital divides, many have not been able to schedule appointments or access critical resources. 

On Twitter, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean at the Brown School of Public Health, shared a thread with data showing the past month’s surge of infection in the UK and how the U.S. is likely to follow in the coming weeks. 

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“In the UK, Delta became dominant and: Cases spiked 5X, Hospitalizations up 90%, Deaths rising albeit slowly so far, Despite having vaccinated more folks than US,” Dr. Ashish Jha wrote. “The UK experience suggests US vaccination level will not be enough to ward off Delta spike. Infection rises likely to become apparent over next few weeks as Delta becomes dominant. The spike won’t be uniform across the nation. Indeed, low vax communities are particularly at risk.” 

The coming weeks will show how the Delta-variant will affect the U.S. and countries around the globe. 

SweetLove gifts founder on growing a small business during the pandemic

Lourdes “Lulu” Carey is the owner of SweetLove gifts, an online gift shop that personalizes anything you can think of, from wine bottles to balloons and surprise boxes. Her growing business is still new, but Lulu is proud of what she has accomplished so far and the support she has received from her community. 

SweetLove gifts

SweetLove gifts is your one stop shop for personalized items for birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and more!(Photo courtesy Lulu Carey)

Growing a small business during the pandemic: Support is key

Lourdes Lulu Carey,

Lourdes “Lulu” Carey, owner and founder of SweetLove gifts. (Photo courtesy Lulu Carey)

Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, Lulu has a Bachelor’s degree in International trade. She moved to New Jersey nearly 10 years ago and resides in Chatham now with her two young boys, Joseph and Austin, and her husband, Joe. A full time mom and Local Consultant for Cultural Care Au Pair, Lulu decided to start her small business, SweetLove, after discovering her creative side this past year. 

“It’s been definitely a challenge to start building a name and a small business during a difficult time for everybody, but I have been blessed to have people around me who support me in all the ways they can,” says Lulu. “My business is still small, but is growing little by little. I couldn’t be prouder of where it’s going.” 

Lulu is still in the early stages of her business, but she has already learned so much and is excited for the future of SweetLove. She is especially glad to have been part of so many special moments for her clients already, like birthdays, graduations, Mother’s and Father’s Day, and other holidays.

“Each and every one of my products are made with so much love. I work hard and do my research to give my customers the best quality. This is just the beginning of a business that I have put all my love and energy into.” 

Lulu is grateful to all those who have supported and helped her on her entrepreneurial journey so far. As every entrepreneur and business owner knows, having a strong support system is so important and invaluable when starting out. Having the support of her husband, friends, family and other local small businesses is what gave Lulu the confidence and push to keep creating early on. 

Lulu personalizes each and every product for any occasion. (Photo courtesy Lulu Carey)

“I have been very lucky and blessed to have support from my friends, community and other local small businesses, helping each other build up our businesses and social media has definitely been great,” says Lulu. 

And remember, helping a business does not always mean you have to buy a product, Lulu says. “You can share their posts, leave a positive comment, tell your friends and family to follow them on social media, etc.” 

Every little bit goes a long way to helping small businesses grow.


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A post shared by SweetLove (@sweetlovegifts)

Taking risks and lessons learned 

No venture is without challenges and lessons learned. Lulu shares with us a story of her first “mistake” and how she learned from the experience. 

“To me, every order and product I make comes with a story,” says Lulu. “I have been part of many special events and I treasure each and every one. There are always good and not so good stories. I remember when I first started, I had to do a delivery. The client ordered a personalized wine bottle for her best friend. Once I got to where I was delivering my order, I accidentally dropped the wine, right there in front of the client.” 

SweetLove gifts (Photo courtesy Lulu Carey)

In that moment, Lulu went through so many emotions, some she can’t even explain. She felt embarrassed and disappointed with herself. It was a simple accident, but still she couldn’t help but feel bad. Seeing the product that she spent so much time, love, and care working on to make it special for her client shattered on the floor was really upsetting. 

Still, this moment was an important learning experience for Lulu.

“I look back now and see how this moment helped me. I learned from this experience to never let a bad moment take me down, to keep giving my best, and to never stop because success will come and you have to be prepared to deal with many hard situations.” 

Many aspiring entrepreneurs may stop themselves from starting their business because they fear failure or think their ideas will not be successful. Others may make themselves dizzy with questions: Will it work? Will I get back the support I always give to small businesses? How much money will I lose? 

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Lulu knows first hand; she asked herself the same questions and more. Yet, even though there was a lot of uncertainty, those questions and worries did not stop her.

“I’m glad to have been part of many special moments, like birthdays, graduations, Mother and Father’s Day. Each and one of my products are made with so much love.” (Photo courtesy Lulu Carey)

“I was proud and excited to put my heart and soul into this,” she says. “And so, to all of you thinking about taking the risk and starting a new business I will say this: DO IT. All of those dreams, ideas, projects and plans that have been in your head for some time, just do it. It won’t be easy, but what is? And if somebody else is doing what you are thinking of doing, don’t worry. Like we say in Mexico, ‘el sol sale para todos.’

Support will come, in all shapes and forms and from people and places you didn’t imagine. Don’t let anything stop you, and get to work on your dreams!”

Immigrant mixed-households to receive stimulus checks

New stimulus checks are coming for jobless Americans. After months of negotiations, lawmakers struck a $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus deal. The new stimulus package was passed by the Senate earlier this week, just in time as nearly 12 million Americans are set to lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas. 

People should start receiving their stimulus checks as early as next week. Checks will be sent via direct deposit for those with bank accounts.  In the spring, physical checks were mailed to Americans who didn’t have a bank account or for those the federal government didn’t have direct deposit information.

So what can we expect from the new stimulus package and who will be eligible to receive a stimulus check? Well, there have been some changes from the last stimulus package, one of the biggest being that mixed-status immigrant households will be eligible. 

Here’s what the stimulus package includes:

  • Americans who earned up to $75,000 in 2019 will receive a $600 direct payment. That is less than the $1,200 checks approved in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in March. 
  • It provides $600 per child, up from $500 in the spring. The bill also includes $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 a year.
  • The size of the benefit would be reduced for those earning more than $75,000, or $150,000 per married couple, similar to the last round of stimulus checks.
  • There is no cap on the number of children a household can claim, so a family of four would receive up to $2,400.

Who is eligible for stimulus checks:

  • For the first time, mixed-status households, or those where a family member doesn’t have a Social Security number, will be eligible to receive stimulus payments. This is a key change from the CARES Act.
  • Those without Social Security numbers, still aren’t eligible. But it would allow U.S. citizens who are married to foreign nationals without Social Security numbers to receive the aid.

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What else is included in the package?

The stimulus package will also include unemployment benefits will also extend all pandemic unemployment programs set to expire at the end of December by an additional 11-weeks through mid-March. 

The measure will also provide a federal unemployment benefit of $300 per week for up to 11 weeks. This however is less than the $600 previously provided under the CARES Act. 

Additionally, the stimulus package will include an extension of the small business Paycheck Protection Program, which expanded eligibility to local newspapers, broadcasters and nonprofits. It will direct another $20 billion to small business grants and $15 billion to live event venues.

gender inclusion in the workplace

Mariela Dabbah, the perils of a global pandemic for gender inclusion in the workplace

As 2020 draws to a close, Mariela Dabbah, founder and CEO of the Red Shoe Movement, reflects on the Covid-19 pandemic impact for gender inclusion in the workplace. The pandemic has touched all communities and industries across the globe but most importantly, it has affected the lives of women. The consequential economic crisis is now being called the “she-cession” because women, especially those working full-time jobs, have been mostly affected by having to keep up with their jobs remotely AND managing children and their schooling at home. 

Mariela Dabbah, founder and CEO of the Red Shoe Movement (Photo courtesy Mariela Dabbah)

Mariela Dabbah, founder of a leadership development company powered by a global community of women and men allies who support each other for career success, is working to give women the support they need amid these challenging times. 

The TEDx and International speaker, award-winning, best-selling author and go-to corporate authority for Fortune 500 companies interested in inclusive cultures sat for an interview with on this very specific and concerning topic. 

How the pandemic has affected women in the workplace

Despite much progress over the years in regards to the issue of gender equity in the workplace, women are still under-represented in higher level positions, with only 7% of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. “And while many organizations boast of having a higher percentage of women than men at lower levels of the pyramid, it continues to be very lonely at the top,” Mariela says. 

In the post-Covid landscape, some of this small progress is now being dialed back. The most recent research shows how women have been much more affected by the pandemic, with one in four considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce. Many organizations are now losing their female and diverse talent at higher rates than before. 

“This is connected to the fact that women and particularly women with diverse backgrounds and with disabilities have less resources needed to support them at this time. Primarily, reasons include women tending to be the person in charge of childcare, but also, they generally make less than their male counterparts. When a decision needs to be made of who in the household will quit their job, it’s usually women,” says Mariela. 

As the primary caregivers in most households, women were already in charge of the many hours of unpaid work related to raising a family and keeping a home. This past year they have had to shoulder even more of these responsibilities as lockdowns caused children to become homeschooled through distance learning. The struggle of juggling their careers while being a hands-on parent and maintaining their household has forced many women to compromise, step back or quit all together. 

Foreseeing a negative pandemic effect on women in the workplace early on, Mariela and her team developed programs and initiatives to support them. 

The pandemic shock first, the impact later 

“It’s been a very tough year for all of us,” says Mariela. “The first few weeks of the pandemic, I felt as lost as everyone else. It wasn’t so much the change of working from home rather than going to the office. I’ve been working mostly virtually for the last decade. It was more a feeling of unease. Feeling drained. Having no willpower, having not one spark of creativity. As if everything had literally been put on pause, even my brain.” 

This same feeling has been felt by many women struggling to adjust to this new post-Covid reality. It’s hard to figure out what to do next when the future feels uncertain, with no access to resources and support systems to help them navigate these tumultuous changes. 

Women across the globe coming together virtually in solidarity for gender inclusion in the workplace (Photo courtesy Mariela Dabbah)

“It wasn’t long before we started hearing horrible stories of women being overwhelmed by trying to juggle all the new responsibilities. For instance, stories of bosses micromanaging their teams to the point of asking associates to have their cameras on during the 8 to 10-hour workday so they could check on them,” Mariela shares. 

Mariela and her team immediately created a program to address this sense of impotence and being overwhelmed to provide women with a support system that helps them avoid making rash decisions. Additionally, they have launched an initiative that continues to propel the fight for gender inclusion in the workplace. 


gender inclusion in the workplace

#InclusionIsNotOnPause initiative (Photo courtesy Mariela Dabbah)

“We launched the #InclusionIsNotOnPause initiative to remind everyone that we needed to keep our eyes on the gender-inclusion ball or we’d lose a lot of our hard-earned gains of the past few decades. This initiative provides a set of tactics that organizations can implement to openly show their support for inclusion of all its talent.”

Continuing the fight for gender inclusion 

Join the #RedShoeTuesday campaign! (Photo courtesy Mariela Dabbah)

Despite the pandemic and the struggles this past year, 2020 has also been a time of growth for many, Mariela included. This strange year has had its ups and downs, and for many the “break” from our traditional routines has led to inspiration and sparked new ideas for innovation. 

“I’ve been very lucky this year just by staying healthy.  Also, the fact that we’ve been delivering our programs virtually for so long played to our advantage; we made tweaks and improvements to everything we offer. My team and I kept coming up with new ways to better serve our clients now that they are all working from home,” says Mariela.

One personal highlight of 2020 that stands out to her is her invitation to present at TEDx Deer Park Women

“It was an amazing opportunity to share my vision for promoting a Global Leap of Consciousness in gender equity with our #RedShoeTuesday campaign.”

What’s next in women equity in the workplace?

“As the pandemic has proven, it’s impossible to predict what will happen five years from now. But our mission is to level the playing field for women and we will continue to do whatever we can to achieve it,” says Mariela. 

The Red Shoe Movement continues to develop new programs to address the needs of its clients and communication campaigns that keep raising awareness to reach gender equity. One of their latest programs is the Allyship Circles to help people talk about problematic issues in a safe environment. “The goal is to foster a culture of inclusion as quickly as possible so that all associates feel like they belong and that they are valued for their contributions,” Mariela explains.  

gender inclusion in the workplace

Wear your red shoes too for gender inclusion in the workplace! #RedShoeTuesday (Photo courtesy Mariela Dabbah)

We have seen many women step into leadership positions this past year, especially in politics. Each time a woman rises in leadership, it shows others that this too is possible for them. That kind of mentality is what Mariela hopes to continue to foster moving forward. 

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“The ‘seeing is believing’ kind of effect really works,” she said. “But progress inside corporations continues to be very slow. At the higher levels, there tends to be more women in roles such as HR, Communications and Marketing and many less in other areas of the business. However, since #BlackLivesMatter, the country seems to have experienced an awakening and as a result, organizations seem to be honestly committed to real change. We’ll have to wait and see if these changes stick. For now, we are seeing a wave of companies looking for real solutions to the inequity situation and this will have an impact not only on Black associates but on all under-represented groups, including women.” 

The future ahead is still uncertain, but as we head into the new year, Mariela and the Red Shoe Movement are more focused than ever in ensuring that she and her team continue to help women prosper and thrive in their careers.

Covid19, poultry farms

Poultry farms and Latino workers at the forefront of COVID-19

When you are enjoying your barbecue chicken or chicken wings this Memorial Day weekend, take a few seconds to think who has made this possible for you. Latino workers employed at poultry farms are subject to discrimination, exploitation and marked wage discrepancies working in inhumane conditions. Now, they are suffering high impact COVID-19 contagion.

poultry farms

A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at Covid-19 cases among US workers in 115 meat and poultry processing facilities across 19 states. It found that among approximately 130,000 workers at these facilities, there had been 4,913 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 20 deaths.The shocking videos released by Oxfam America about Latino workers’ exploitation at poultry farms all over the country may appear as a surprise for many Americans, but in reality this type of abuse has been going on for decades.

Latinos make up the majority of the labor force in the American meat industry. Most of these Hispanic workers are new immigrants afforded few job opportunities in rural America. They take on jobs Americans do not want –and work in beef, pork or poultry farms ranks as one of the least desirable jobs.

Working in poultry farms a dangerous proposition

The complete report reveals the inhumane conditions that Latinos are exposed to in poultry farms all over the USA. Conducted by Oxfam America, a global organization working to advocate against poverty, hunger, and injustice in over 90 countries, their researchers and reporters show the deplorable work conditions these unfortunate workers have had to endure on a daily basis over a 3-year period of investigative reporting.

Covid19, poultry farms

Tyson Foods installed protective plastic divisions between workers to prevent spread of coronavirus (Photo Courtesy Tyson Foods)


Working in the poultry industry is not only physically demanding but extremely dirty. There is risk of disease and injury; the environment is hot and humid and the stench is unbearable. Just imagine the amount of fecal waste produced daily by thousands of chickens.

What Latinos and other workers endure very day

Among other shocking details, the released video reveals workers at these plants wear diapers because they are not allowed to take bathroom breaks or have a law-mandated downtime to drink or eat. Many urinate and defecate while standing in the line and are not allowed to drink fluids despite working in unbearable hot environments.

Besides suffering humiliation, these workers are also susceptible to seriously health problems from inhalation of aerosolized bird fecal material and coming into contact with feathers. Most of them do not wear protective gear.

Poultry farms_chicken line

Many women also work in such environment and sadly, during their menstrual periods, are also denied the law-mandated breaks as supervisors are under constant pressure to maintain a certain speed of production.

Latinos interviewed for the report said that working at poultry farms was often life threatening, living in constant fear of losing their jobs, working while sick or injured or even with the threat of being turned onto immigration authorities.

Poultry farms take care of their chickens but don’t take care of their workers

Last week, John Tyson, chairman of the board with Tyson Foods Inc, took out a full page advertisement in the New York Times, The Washington Post and The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to express his concerns about the food supply chain: “Millions of animals – chickens, pigs and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities. The food supply chain is breaking,” he said. Mark Jordan, executive director of LEAP Market Analytics, said chicken production was currently 15% down while beef and pork had been affected even worse with production 30% lower. (Cited on

The poultry farms investigated in the report included Tyson foods, Perdue Farms, Sanderson farms and Pilgrim’s Pride. This industry made $32.7 billion in 2014 and each year the profits have been increasing. Yet little is spent on improving the working environment or offering health benefits to these workers.

Poultry farms_brands

“The top four companies produce hundreds of different products, and market under at least 30 different brand names. Perdue sells 213 poultry products under their Perdue brand. Tyson sells 97 products under their Tyson brand (and many more under other brands), Pilgrim’s sells 54, and Sanderson Farms sells 49 different products, “ the report says.

There are an estimated 300,000 Latino workers in 174 factories but documenting their background is difficult. In general most poultry farms workers are undocumented young male Latinos.

The majority of plant workers are non-unionized and many are totally unaware of US labor rights.

Other complaints noted direct discrimination, dead-end jobs with no improvement opportunities and lowest pay in the industry –often worse for undocumented workers and refugees. The majority of these workers are paid through a cash system and no health benefits are offered.

Despite these poultry farms workers suffer a number of injuries at work while hanging, cleaning and cutting the poultry, the majority had no sick days off or health benefits. The US Department of Labor officially classifies poultry as a “hazardous industry” and has calculated that poultry workers are injured five times more than workers in other industries.

Responsibility starts from the top down

Oxfam America’s report also revealed the abusive conditions in which these workers are not only granted no benefits but also are stripped of dignity through name calling, screaming and bullying by managers. Women also complained of sexual harassment from managers who do not take the complaints seriously or just tell them to leave.

Pultry farms carpal tunnel

Anecdotal reports of abusive behavior in the poultry industry have persisted by decades but so far the authorities have just turned a deaf ear –after all these are only “expendable” workers who can quickly be replaced.

The solution is not simple without comprehensive immigration reform and labor law enforcement. Large corporations hire these “invisible” undocumented workers, a condition that makes abuse and exploitation possible because these workers have no rights other than those of human decency.

So far, the Department of Labor at a federal level has not made any statements regarding these allegations but if past history is true then the trend will continue. This is not only a unique problem to the poultry industry as Latinos face abuse in many industries.

In 2009, the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. The federal department alleged that Tyson Foods did not keep accurate records and failed to pay production line employees for the time they spend donning and doffing safety and sanitary gear, and performing other related work activities. The violations covered the period from the year 2000 to the present and affect approximately 3,000 current and former workers at the plant.

The initial investigation began in April 2000 as part of the department’s Wage and Hour Division’s poultry enforcement initiative. The Labor Department filed the district court complaint in May 2002 following the company’s failure to comply with the law and to pay back wages. The first jury trial, which began in February 2009, ended in a mistrial. The Labor Department chose to pursue a second trial in August 2009 to secure a ruling that Tyson was failing to compensate its employees lawfully.

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At the time, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said, “This is a victory for workers, and the result of years of dedicated efforts to protecting the rights of working Americans on the part of attorneys, investigators and others within the Labor Department.”

(from Department of Labor Press release

unemployed workers

New Jersey is stepping up efforts for unemployed workers and freelancers

To better serve the unemployed workers hit by COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey is stepping up its efforts by temporarily suspending the “work search requirement” for laid off workers and creating a jobs portal — — to match those who are looking for work with immediate openings in industries on the frontlines of the pandemic. Thousands of positions are available immediately throughout the state.

Apply online to the NJ Division of Unemployment Services

Meanwhile, a record 206,253* new unemployment claims were filed with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development for the week ending March 28, bringing the two-week total of new claims to just over 362,000, as COVID-19 bore down on the state’s workforce and businesses.

Initial claims for the week ending March 28 exceeded even those for the prior week, when 155,815 new claims were filed.

  • A breakdown of the claims that were processed March 15-28 shows the hardest-hit employees worked in food services/drinking establishments, with 16.5 percent of claims; ambulatory health care services (doctors’ and dentists’ offices), with 11 percent of claims; and administrative and support services, with 7 percent of claims.

“We know a lot of people are hurting, so we are grateful to announce that financial help is on the way for workers upended because of this public health crisis,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “These unemployed workers now have access to emergency paid leave to care for themselves or a loved one, they are in line for a $600 per week supplement to their unemployment benefit, and there’s a federal extension of unemployment benefits for 13 weeks.”

  • The $600 supplemental unemployment is expected to arrive beginning next week. It will be issued separately than regular unemployment benefits.
  • There’s a federal extension of unemployment benefits for 13 weeks, even for those whose claims have expired,
  • Unemployment benefits are becoming available for freelancers, gig workers and independent contractors, who typically are not eligible.
  • Additionally, applicants in New Jersey do not have a “waiting week” before benefits are paid once they are approved.

The Labor Department is awaiting federal guidance on determining eligibility for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and anticipates that guidance arriving soon.

Meanwhile, these unemployed workers should apply for unemployment insurance. The application likely will be denied, but that initial denial is a necessary step toward being able to collect the COVID-related benefit. Next, these workers should gather their past two years of tax returns, which will become necessary for their claim to be processed once federal rules are established.

Similarly, the state awaits word from the US Labor Department on who will be eligible for the 13-week extension of unemployment benefits under the CARES Act.

The data released Thursday by the US Department of Labor also indicates that nearly 156,000 residents are currently collecting unemployment, about 51,000 more than the prior week.

For national unemployment data, visit

For archived NJ claims data, visit

*This represents the final number for the week ended March 28. The number listed for NJ by US Department of Labor – 205,515 – is based on advanced reporting.

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