TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Jim Beach and Senator Fred H. Madden that would allow veterans and other groups to apply online for unemployment insurance compensation (UI) benefits was approved today by the Assembly.
The bill, S-2004, would require the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLWD) to permit claimants who served in the military, worked for the federal government, or worked outside the State of New Jersey to apply through the internet for unemployment insurance benefits. Current law only allows for the groups to apply by telephone or in person. This bill seeks to give all eligible claimants the same access to online certification.
“Allowing these groups to file online, which is an option that most residents are already offered, is common sense. We shouldn’t be asking our residents, especially veterans and public servants, to jump through hoops in order to access these unemployment benefits,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington, Camden) who serves as Chair of the Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. ”By making this change, hopefully we can help more veterans, workers and their families get the answers and the support they need should they have to face the fear of being unemployed.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Jersey’s unemployment rate as of August of this year is 5.3%; compared to November of 2009, when it was at 9.8%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that currently about 242,000 people remains unemployed in the state.
“Despite the economic growth, many people are still not working, which means that a need exists,” said Senator Madden (D-Gloucester, Camden). “We want to make sure people who are out of work, through no fault of their own, have easy access to their benefits. Unfortunately, certain groups are at a disadvantage because they are limited only to seeking unemployment compensation through the traditional route. In 2016, most everything is handled online and this bill will ensure that veterans and others are able to have the same access as everyone else.”
Prior to 2011, only UI beneficiaries who wanted to file or reopen a claim were allowed to do so online. If a beneficiary wanted to cancel or close a claim, he or she was required to make an appointment to speak to a Division representative. The law was then modified in 2011 when legislation was enacted to allow individuals to file, reopen, cancel or close a claim for unemployment insurance (“UI”) benefits online, on a special website that was accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
However, ex-military services personnel, federal government employees, or those who worked outside the State of New Jersey were prohibited from using the website. Those particular individuals were required to apply on the telephone or in person. S-2004 would remove the exclusion and permit all claimants – including former military, federal government employees, and those who worked out of State – to have the same access to online certification as all others.
S-2004 cleared the full Assembly 72-0 and cleared the full Senate 34-0 in June. It will now head to the governor’s desk.