NJ Residents Could Get Unemployment Benefits Faster Under Law Murphy Just Signed
Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill to help unemployed New Jersey workers get unemployment benefits faster following repeated criticism that the state’s system handed out payments too slowly during the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus.
But the measure will not come into effect for nine months.
The bipartisan legislation (S2357) makes a number of changes to how certain unemployment benefits are distributed in the state in an effort to expedite them.
After the measure passed the state legislature earlier this year without a single negative vote, Murphy conditionally vetoed the measure last month. He said he supported the bill’s goals, but his administration was told by the federal government that some of the measure’s provisions were problematic.
The Legislative Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the recommendations.
“As we work to improve the Unemployment Insurance system, we must ensure the process is fast and seamless from start to finish,” Murphy said in a statement after the law was signed into law Thursday.
“The revisions sent back to the Legislature ensure compliance with federal law, and I commend the sponsors of the bill for their dedication to improving our state’s unemployment insurance system. Every eligible recipient of unemployment benefits deserves to receive assistance as quickly and efficiently as possible. »
Millions of New Jerseyans were forced to seek unemployment amid state shutdowns and business closings at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. But many residents waited weeks or months to be paid, and lawmakers said their offices were bombarded with calls from people seeking help.
This law was one of the few measures introduced by lawmakers to help overhaul the system.
Specifically, the law extends the time residents have to appeal a change in their benefits from 10 to 21 days. And those residents would continue to receive the original amount until their appeal is resolved.
The law also provides stiffer penalties for employers who do not provide unemployment claims information within seven days to the state Department of Labor, increasing fines from $25 every 10 days to $500 per day. day.
Additionally, the law changes what happens when a New Jersey worker is mistakenly overpaid. Previously, people who were wrongly paid, even if it was not their fault, had to return the money. But under this legislation, if workers are overpaid due to errors made by the state or the employer, the worker will only have to reimburse up to 50% of the amount.
Murphy asked lawmakers for more clarity to ensure the measure matches federal rules. He called for the legislation to specify that overpayments made under CARES Act programs can only be reversed if the state Department of Labor determines that the overpayment was not the fault of the employer. plaintiff and that “reimbursement would be contrary to fairness and good conscience”.
Benefits overpaid due to fraud or misrepresentation should still be refunded in full.
Murphy also asked lawmakers to increase the time given to the Department of Labor to implement changes to the law from 120 days after it is signed to 270 days after it is signed. This means that the changes will not take effect until July 2023.
The part of the bill that received the most attention was the requirement that the Department of Labor provide an appointment opportunity for workers who need help verifying their identity, filing a claim or appeal or simply want a report on the status of their claim.
But the Labor Department began in-person meetings in July, after the measure passed but before the governor considered it for signing. The in-person appointment provision came after workers complained during the pandemic that they would have to wait weeks to be called back about their unemployment claims, if they received one.
Workers can schedule an in-person appointment through the “self-serve” section of the unemployment website after logging on to nj.gov/labor/myunemployment.
New Jersey has handed out $37 billion to more than two million workers during the pandemic, state Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said.
“But we never want to see a single resident struggle to pay their bills or find a new job,” he added.
State Senator Fred Madden, D-Gloucester, said the state’s unemployment system is “designed to help people at a difficult time in their lives, and this reform will help the program achieve its goal.”
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.