Top Democrats and a prominent Republican in the State Senate urged Gov. Phil Murphy and Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo to address the backlog of unemployment cases in the state.
“In this moment, ensuring that residents can remain in their homes, put food on their table and pay for out of pocket medical expenses is a moral obligation of the government. Our residents are suffering, and the Legislative constituent offices are receiving calls and emails from residents not getting through to the unemployment services,” the senators said. “We realize your offices are experiencing the same ten times fold, so how can the legislature help you?”
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) and State Sens. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), Paul Sarlo (D-Woodridge), Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) and Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) signed onto the letter.
“What is needed, today, to appropriately expand the department’s capacity? What steps have been taken to expedite the application process for our most desperate New Jerseyans?” they said. “If there is a single state employee available to assist, they should be at the unemployment office. If training is needed, then train. If licenses are needed, then buy the licenses. This is an immediate priority and the time to deliver on this is now.”
More than 1 million New Jerseyans have filed claims amid the COVID-19 crisis, and hundreds of thousands remain waiting for their benefits, though many of those who have yet to receive unemployment benefits are independent contractors.
“The residents of New Jersey have waited far too long and are enduring too much hardship. The failure to provide this support in a timely way is making circumstances worse,” the senators said. “We all have an obligation to protect our residents from any further suffering.”