TRENTON – The Senate Labor Committee will hear testimony regarding the state’s six month backlog of unemployment insurance (UI) claims at its next Committee meeting, which will take place Monday, October 1 at 10 am in Committee Room 6, Statehouse Annex. The Committee is expecting to hear testimony from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. In addition, the Committee will also hear about the current condition of the unemployment fund and about how many people will be impacted when federal emergency benefits run out at the end of the year.
“Our state’s unemployment rate continues to rise, meaning more and more people in New Jersey will be in need of UI benefits. We can’t have those who need benefits running into roadblocks that cause six month back logs. The benefits they are applying for are to help feed their families and to keep a roof over their head. That is why it is crucial that we understand just why there is this backlog and what we can do to fix it,” said Senator Fred Madden (D – Gloucester, Camden), chair of the committee.
Recently, attention has been drawn to the fact that individuals seeking expedited appeals consideration when they were denied unemployment benefits, have been waiting for extremely long periods of time. Currently, the wait time for the Division of Unemployment Insurance to even begin hearing an appeal is between 20 and 24 weeks. While individuals can sometimes receive expedited consideration if they have received an eviction notice, expedited consideration is never guaranteed, and individuals appealing the denial of unemployment benefits do not receive any notice as to how long it may take for their case to be heard.
As of June-July of 2011, the average wait time for unemployment benefits appeals was 8 – 10 weeks. 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 41 remaining staffers cannot handle the workload. While the Division has confirmed that it is in the process of hiring more staff members to handle appeals, 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 it was at before the beginning of the recession.