A State Assembly candidate who collected unemployment benefits for a few months after losing his job in 2018 is repaying the total amount he received.
Rev. Reginald Atkins was working for Tata Communications, an India-based telecommunications company, when he was laid off from his job in 2018 following a reduction of employees based in the United States.
A former Roselle interim mayor, Atkins seeking an open seat in the 20th district on the organization line in a six-way Demcoratic primary.
As a result of losing his full-time job, Atkins applied for benefits to help with the loss of his full-time job. He found a new job in early 2019 and notified the state that he no longer needed the assistance.
Later, Atkins was told that his part-time salaries as a councilman ($15,000 annually) and as a member of the Linden Roselle Sewerage Authority ($500 annually) should have been included in calculating his unemployment payments.
As a result, Atkins decided in 2019 to pay back the entirety of the benefits he’d collected, even though he doesn’t necessarily owe the entire amount.
“I don’t want any issues,” he told the New Jersey Globe. “We’re paying it along.”
Atkins said he’s already returned $7,000 to the state, and still owes $8,800.
Calculating unemployment benefits can be confusing. Even those who lose their full-time jobs must still consider some pension income and the value of supplemental part-time work, including government service.
Atkins told the NJ Globe that he and his wife had regularly donated his public salary to a non-profit community food bank.
One of Atkins’ primary opponents, Christian Veliz, appears to have a bigger problem on his hands.
Three months ago, Veliz admitted to insurance fraud.
Veliz had let his automobile insurance policy lapse for non-payment at 12:01 AM on November 28, 2019 and was involved in an accident on November 29 at 12:31 PM. One hour later, he reinstated his policy was the Progressive Insurance Company after attesting that he was not involved in any accident or loss during the period he had no insurance.
In a consent order with the state Department of Banking and Insurance in December 2020, Veliz conceded a violation of the New Jersey Insurance Fraud Prevention Act and agreed to pay a $2,625 civil administrative penalty and surcharge. The order Veliz signed acknowledged that this would be considered his first offense.
Atkins is running on a slate with State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union) and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Elizabeth). He’s seeking the seat Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle) is giving up to challenge Cryan in the Demcoratic Senate primary.