NJ workers can register for in-person appointment for unemployment assistance for first time, state says
There’s good news for unemployed workers whose claims have been languishing for months or more.
The Department of Labor is now offering in-person appointments to any unemployed worker who wants one, NJ Advance Media has learned. Previously, limited in-person appointments were only available if initiated by the agency, and workers had to wait to find out if they could get one.
“Since we reopened in-person services in March, we have been calling every applicant to get services from the people who have been waiting the longest, a few months, reaching out to offer appointments,” said the Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo in NJ. Advance Media in an exclusive interview. He called it “fair” to offer these workers the opportunity for a face-to-face first.
Now, he said, the agency has “the low claims safety net and has more officers trained and hired to help directly on claims,” adding that it needed to determine how officers could dealing with “more complex cases”. ”
“I would like to think we have a pretty good response. We wanted to make sure we had a process,” he said.
The Labor Department said about 1,300 appointments are scheduled for next week, though it’s unclear how many slots will be available each week. Workers can schedule appointments through their personal self-service guide when they log on to the Department of Labor website or by calling the agency, regardless of their benefits issues.
Since in-person appointments began in March, the department has scheduled 23,000 in total, but many have been canceled because workers’ grievances were resolved ahead of schedule, the agency said.
In-person appointments would be required under a bill passed earlier this month, which now awaits Governor Phil Murphy’s signature. Under the measure, the Department of Labor would be required to provide the opportunity for an appointment to workers who need help verifying their identity, filing a grievance or appeal, or who simply want a report on the status of their claim.
The legislation came after workers complained they would have to wait weeks or more before being recalled, if they received one, and after lawmakers said their offices had been inundated with requests for help from voters during the pandemic.
MP Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester, one of the bill’s sponsors, said he applauded the move.
“This is a step in the right direction to increase the accessibility of assistance to claimants trying to resolve issues with their claims,” he said. “While these appointments represent progress in addressing the long backlog in benefits, we continue to see delays and confusion on behalf of claimants and I urge Governor Murphy to sign S2357 into law to build on these progress.”
“Better late than never,” said Brad Schnure, spokesman for the Republican Senate Office of New Jersey. “We have been claiming in-person unemployment services for two years.”
Asaro-Angelo said in-person dates are something the agency has been working on “for some time.”
He said the agency had not offered in-person appointments earlier because it was trying to help as many workers as possible as quickly as possible and that handling complaints online and over the phone was more efficient. .
He said he realizes that some workers prefer to have an in-person meeting, whether because they have technology challenges or for other reasons.
Asaro-Angelo said not all complaints will be resolved on the spot during in-person appointments, as it will depend on the complexity of the complaint, but officers will be able to “advance the complaint.”
“For the most part, when people see an agent, they can be cured on the spot or very quickly afterwards,” he said.
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