TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Ron Dancer wants unemployment claims processed more quickly.
Dancer’s bill (A3436) would require the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development to process claims within two weeks of filing. Current law allows for three weeks.
“During the government lockdowns, I had constituents who waited more than a year for claim resolutions. They were unable to reach anyone at the unemployment office when they had problems filing for or receiving their benefits,” Dancer (R-Ocean) said. “Meanwhile, they depleted their savings and relied on credit cards to stay afloat, though they were entitled to these benefits. The consequences of this will be felt for years.”
Unemployment claims soared to unprecedented levels when Gov. Phil Murphy locked down the state in March 2020. Unemployment hovered at 7% even after Murphy started reopening the state two months later. Meanwhile, legislators from both sides of the aisle have complained persistently about constituents still waiting for answers and money from the Division of Unemployment Insurance, overseen by Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.
Dancer’s bill would require the state labor department to maintain telephone hotlines at a minimum of 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays, with that hotline number prominently displayed on the department’s website. The department must sufficiently staff that hotline so claimants wait no more than 30 minutes before speaking with a representative.
Additionally, representatives must be trained to answer general inquiries about the unemployment program and its benefits, as well as specific claim questions.
To help those still waiting for resolution of their claims, Dancer’s bill also limits to two months the time the department has to address any outstanding unemployment claim that has been pending for more than two weeks at the time of the bill’s enactment. Many have had to wait several months to a year for any resolution.
“It’s my hope this bill will improve the claims processing for unemployment benefits. It is simply not good enough that claimants across the state eventually received their payments,” Dancer said. “No one should be shut out of receiving timely benefits. It’s past time to fix our unemployment system.”