State Senator Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, is asking the state to invest $50 million of its $1.8 billion in federal CARES Act funds to the unemployment system, to resolve problems that have kept thousands of people without income for weeks.
“My office has heard from hundreds of people in our district, and beyond, who need help with unemployment claims. They come to us out of desperation, after weeks of waiting, days of calling, and hours spent emailing seeking answers," Singleton said. "Understandably, their patience has worn thin."
Singleton wants the money used for both information technology upgrades and temporary hiring of extra personnel to process the backlog of more than 300,000 claims.
Last week, Congressman Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd, called for a surge in staffing and funding for the state's unemployment system. He has said he has about 15,000 open cases of unemployment problems from his constituents.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, and State Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, have their offices are also swamped with calls for help from desperate people who cannot get their benefits or get through to anyone at state unemployment call centers.
Mazzeo said the state's second legislative district, which he and Brown represent, has the highest number of unemployed in the state of any legislative district, with more than 23,000 in a district that covers the bulk of -- but not all of -- Atlantic County.
“While no one could have predicted the consequences of this pandemic, the current unemployment system is woefully outdated, and the New Jersey Department of Labor staff is simply not plentiful enough to address the full scale of this crisis due to years of reductions in manpower," Singleton said.
“For seven weeks, New Jerseyans have cooperated to flatten the curve and abide by the Governor’s stay-at-home order. However, many of these people – over 1,000,000 of them –have been unemployed and out of work for the duration of this pandemic," Singleton said. "Even worse, a significant number still have not seen one dollar of their unemployment benefits.