The abject failure of NJ’s unemployment office (Opinion)
When Gov. Phil Murphy signed executive orders in March of last year basically shutting down all non-essential business, he did so with no sound plan for the obvious avalanche of unemployment claims to follow. Handled by the New Jersey Department of Labor, that agency’s commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo had no satisfactory answers when he spent nearly an hour on our show in 2020 fielding calls from concerned claimants who were not getting paid and couldn’t get help.
People would try to file online and were erroneously given dates for the year 2040 when someone would be assisting them. Folks would call when the Labor Department opened in the morning and a recording would tell them that no one could take their call and to call back tomorrow. Others were given claim numbers only to then be told the number didn’t exist.
The bottom line was they were unprepared. Their computer system was ancient. Their workforce was insufficient to handle the deluge. Their systems were flawed.
Phone calls went unanswered. Straightforward legitimate claims were lost. It was a living nightmare for thousands of New Jerseyans forced to stop working and trying to get money rightfully theirs to take care of the most basic, minimal needs of their families.
For a governor given good marks in polls on his handling of the pandemic, he failed at many points along the pandemic timeline to run the most basic functions of government. The unemployment insurance debacle was one example. The massive backlog at Motor Vehicle Commission leading to customers camping in parking lots was another.
It was a parade of failures.
Now, in a moment so shameless it’s laughable, we have cavalier non-answers to the question of when will people be able to visit an unemployment office in person. It should have been October 18. That was the day all state workers were supposed to be back in offices doing their jobs. That was what the public was told. Accordingly, there were people who needed help with unemployment insurance claims who lined up outside the doors of offices only to be turned away.
Murphy screwed up yet again. His administration allowed a delay and quietly admitted they were now going to do a slow rollout of returns to offices for many states employees.
The Labor Department workers who would have handled such unemployment business are among them. Asaro-Angelo sent a letter to the state’s legislators in part saying, “There will be no in-person UI services available at any DOL location at this time. It is our hope that based on claimant numbers and other factors, we will be able to provide in-person UI services at some point in 2022.”
What a pathetic dodge. What an abject failure of the Murphy administration. What an abject failure all around.
After more than a year and a half this governor cannot get all state workers back in their state offices? All Murphy does at ineffectual times like these is to drone about how frustrated he understands people are. Phil, when people are drowning you describing the water to them isn’t helping.
Once again, how does a clown like Phil Murphy get high marks on his handling of the pandemic when complete meltdowns of responsibility like this are happening. The handling of a pandemic isn’t just setting up tent hospitals and vaccination sites. It’s managing the day to day, it’s keeping the state going despite all the pandemic problems.
It’s what you and I have been expected to do on our jobs and within our families. Murphy however seems to give himself a pass.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.