NJ Senate Dems Blast Labor Officials Over Jobless Appeals [AUDIO]
State Senator Dick Codey is 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 Senate Labor panel has approved a bill to make the state pay if it takes more than 60 days to rule on unemployment insurance appeals.
Testifying before the labor committee yesterday, Labor Department chief of staff, Fred Zavaglia said two new employees are working on the appeals process and 12 federally-funded employees are expected to be on the job by week's end, but he insists, "It is not simply a matter of throwing bodies at the backlog because at some point you're going to have less backlog and lots of bodies."
"I gotta be honest with, if you look at this backlog and I'm one of those (unemployed) people I don't want to hear that. I really don't," says former Governor Codey. "When the federal government is paying the money to hire these people, get their butts in here! Get them qualified! Get these claims resolved!"
Zavaglia says addressing the problem is also grounded in technology, records storage and how cases are heard.
Codey says people have paid into the Unemployment Insurance fund and if they deserve to get money out they should get it quickly. He insists, "They don't want to be out on unemployment, but when they can't get the job right away they want the claim resolved right away."
Labor Department spokesman Brian Murray acknowledges the backlog, but points out it pre-dates Governor Chris Christie's Administration by three years. He 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. Murray 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.