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Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Rob Asaro-Angelo highlight economic growth in New Jersey at RWJ University Hospital in New Brunswick on July 18, 2019.

Labor Department moves to meet unemployment demand

By Nikita Biryukov, April 14 2020 3:37 pm

New Jersey is taking steps to make sure its unemployment claims system can weather the surge of applications caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

More than 575,000 New Jerseyans filed for unemployment during a three-week period starting March 15, and the state’s claims system, running on a decades-old programming language, was unable to handle the flow, causing delays and sometimes freezing applications outright.

“I feel it in the pit of my stomach for every worker’s claim we haven’t gotten to yet,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “We are paying benefits to nearly 300,000 New Jerseyans, but that is of little consequence if your claim isn’t one of them. Our entire staff empathizes with your frustration and uncertainty. That’s why we have been working around the clock to find solutions to common problems weighing on the system.”

In response to the surge, the Department of Labor has provided claims agents with laptops to process unemployment applications from home, expanded call center capacity and created documents explaining the unemployment claim process for independent contractors, among other things.

“The unceasing efforts of our Division of Information Technology and Unemployment Insurance staff, coupled with the assistance of the Office of Information Technology staff, have enabled us to reconfigure our legacy computer systems to serve more customers than ever before,” Asaro-Angelo said. “They have been working nonstop since the pandemic struck New Jersey, and I want to thank them for their commitment to getting benefits to everyone who deserves them as quickly as possible.”

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