Too many people are waiting too long to get their unemployment insurance benefits according to State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Trenton). She said the law regulating the time period claim filers have to wait to find out if they’re eligible for benefits and for how much is too vague and she wanted to speed up the entire process because some people can’t wait to get paid.

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“My bill would require that the unemployment office respond and get people their money within a three-week period of the claim filing because I’ve heard from too many of my constituents who are being punished by waiting an unduly long period of time before they receive their first paycheck,” Turner said.

Information on how long the average wait-time was for someone who files an unemployment insurance claim was not readily available and the Dept. of Labor and Workforce development does not typically comment on pending legislation said a Department spokesperson.

“Many newly unemployed people are living paycheck-to-paycheck and then when they’re without a paycheck for a month or more they just can’t survive,” Turner said.

The senator's legislation (S-3217) would require the Division of Unemployment and Temporary Disability Insurance to make the initial determination of a claim for unemployment benefits and notify the person who no later than three weeks from the date when the claim was received. Under current law, the first determination must be made “promptly,” but no actual time period is specified.

“All I’m doing is I’m just asking the Department of Labor to expedite their processing so these people can get the money that they need to pay their bills and put food on the table,” Turner said.

The senator said if and when there was a backlog it was - or is - probably because of a lack of personnel at the Department of Labor. There was no fiscal statement included in her bill. Those statements are independent estimates of the cost of implementing specific legislation. Turner said there’s no way to gauge how much her measure would cost should it become law because it could not be determined if more employees would need to be hired and if so, how many.

Information on filing unemployment insurance claims, how to calculate benefits and access claim updates can be found at http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/ui/ui_index.html

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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