In Brief

Bill would require annual report on jobless claims

By: - June 6, 2022 6:44 am

Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo maintains New Jersey was among one of the best states in distributing benefits and has said the average processing time is about three weeks. (Courtesy of New Jersey Governor's Office)

Lawmakers keep looking for ways to require more legislative oversight of the Department of Labor, which has come under sharp criticism for its handling of unemployment claims.

Under a new bipartisan bill (A3810) approved last week, the state’s labor commissioner would be required to issue annual public reports detailing, among other things, the time it took to process benefit claims and adjudicate appeals.

If the bill passes, the first report would be due Nov. 30. The measure was unanimously voted out of the Assembly’s oversight committee Thursday and referred to the chamber’s labor panel. The Senate companion bill has not been scheduled for a floor vote.

The measure, sponsored by five Democrats and two Republicans, is one of dozens aimed at speeding up the payment of unemployment claims. Legislators have said their constituent services offices have become de facto unemployment agencies, their staff members tasked with helping residents who say they can’t get through to the state.

According to the bill text, the labor commissioner’s report would include:

  • Data for the previous year on the timeliness of benefits payment and appeals
  • A comparison of New Jersey’s performance to the national average
  • The number of employees in the unemployment insurance department and their salaries and benefits, including the number of employees processing benefit claims
  • Information from the current and previous years on how federal funds were used and how much remains
  • Ways the unemployment system has been modernized in the previous year and what other steps need to be taken for full modernization

Since a torrent of unemployment claims led to a massive backlog starting in April 2020, the Department of Labor has been continuously criticized by lawmakers and jobless residents who say they had trouble getting their benefits. Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo maintains New Jersey was among one of the best states in distributing benefits and has said the average processing time is about three weeks.

Another recently introduced bill would require the Department of Labor to process all claims within two weeks. The Senate has also advanced legislation that would extend appeals deadlines and limit the amount people must pay back if the state made an error in distributing benefits.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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