NJ Jobless Waiting Months For Unemployment Benefits Appeals [POLL/AUDIO]
State Senator Ray Lesniak and Assembly members Joe Cryan and Annette Quijano are blasting the Christie Administration over a backlog for out-of-work New Jerseyans appealing the denial of unemployment benefits.
They say for some the wait can be up to six months.
"The difference between being able to provide for your family or being forced out your home is sometimes a matter of days, not months," says Cryan. "When deserved unemployment benefits are being unfairly denied, every day that goes by is a step further into the economic abyss. That the administration, in this economic climate, can't provide people with the right to a fair and swift hearing is cold and callous. It's inexcusable, and it needs to be corrected immediately."
Labor Department spokesman Brian Murray acknowledges the backlog, but points out it pre-dates Governor Chris Christie's Administration by three years. He says the Department is working with the federal government to resolve the issue which would include the hiring of 12 new employees to help the 46 currently working on appeals cases.
"While you're waiting for your appeal to be heard you're not getting any sort of benefit that you may have paid in for and in many cases folks win these appeals," says Cryan. He asks, "Wouldn't you think that you'd simply move resources to this particular area to help folks that need compensation, that need help?"
Murray says there are roughly three times as many appeals cases now than there were before the recession hit and caseloads have been cut by 10% during Christie's time in office.
He also explains that 74% of appeals result in no change in benefits eligibility partly because Christie signed a bi-partisan bill into law further restricting people who have been fired for cause from getting benefits. The law doesn't stop them from appealing, however.
Cryan says, according to information provided by the Division of Unemployment Insurance, the State receives approximately 10,000 unemployment benefits claims a week, and the appeals division receives approximately 3,000 appeals cases a month.
Recently, the UI appeals division has lost staff due to attrition, and the remaining staffers cannot handle the workload. A U.S. Department of Labor audit team has recently suggested that the Division of Unemployment Insurance staff their appeals division at the same level is was at before the beginning of the recession.
Murray explains that there are many facets to New Jersey's unemployment benefits story. He reminds us that from March of 2011 through September 1 of this year, the Labor Department has stopped $153 million from going out to people who filed fraudulent claims.