A year into the COVID pandemic, frustrations with the performance of the Department of Labor persist, and Senators Kristin Corrado and Loretta Weinberg wrote to Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo urging immediate changes to improve the department’s responsiveness to desperate residents who have lost their jobs.
As frustrations with the performance of the Department of Labor persist, Senators Kristin Corrado and Loretta Weinberg wrote to Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo urging immediate changes to improve the department’s responsiveness to desperate residents who have lost their jobs. (Pixabay)
“The ongoing situation is a travesty,” said Corrado (R-Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic). “This far into the pandemic, and hard-working New Jersey residents cannot get their checks, cannot get answers, and cannot even speak with people who may be able to help. I am joining with Sen. Weinberg and calling on the commissioner to clean up this mess now.”
In the letter (click here for PDF), the Senators said: “Through no fault of their own, these hard-working residents have been devastated by the economics of COVID, and to make matters worse, too many have been unable to get the help and the answers they desperately need from the Department of Labor.”
“Our residents have waited long enough to get their unemployment problems solved,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). It is time for the department of labor to find ways to meet directly with those still unable to collect and to find solutions to any ordinary or unique problems.”
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Commissioner Asaro-Angelo:
As you are well aware, the pandemic has taken a punishing toll on so many of our fellow New Jerseyans.
Hundreds of thousands of hard-working residents are out of work. Many have seen their savings evaporate and their employers close their doors forever.
Through no fault of their own, these hard-working residents have been devastated by the economics of COVID, and to make matters worse, too many have been unable to get the help and the answers they desperately need from the Department of Labor.
We write this letter on behalf of these desperate residents.
These disheartened New Jerseyans are suffering, and they feel lost and abandoned. They have grown disenchanted with the system designed to protect them from temporary financial setbacks.
The phones at our district office ring constantly with furious, frightened and forlorn residents, some who have never been out of work before, and some who haven’t seen money come in for weeks and months.
They need someone to talk to, someone to hear their pleas. They need to vent, and sometimes they just need to cry.
Our hard-working staffers try to answer questions and give them some help, but not even a Senator’s staff can always get a response.
It is inexcusable for a NJDOL liaison, paid to serve as an intermediary between the department and elected legislators, to not provide us information.
As we previously requested, we implore your office to prioritize face-to-face assistance for applicants who need clarity and assistance.
Restaurants, gyms and retail stores have adapted their policies and procedures to serve customers in a safe, responsible manner. To remain viable, businesses are utilizing strategies they never would have considered a year ago.
The severity of the unemployment situation demands similar creativity from the Department of Labor. Find ways to get the job done like your business depended on it.
We cannot afford to “wait it out” until things return to normal. Follow the lead of Starbucks, grocery stores, and COVID testing centers, and adapt the process to better serve the public. For example, consider drive-up appointments where out-of-work residents can interact with subject area experts without leaving their cars.
A year into this pandemic, the department’s computer system and staff should be functioning at a higher level, and the frustration experienced by residents should be at a minimum.
We read your recent comments in the press. You painted an optimistic picture, but it does not coincide with the reality.
There is still much work yet to be done, and that should start with hiring a responsive liaison that our legislative colleagues can depend on to answer our questions and assist our constituents.
We can help more of our fellow New Jerseyans when we work together with a common goal.
Senator Kristin M. Corrado
R- Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic
Senator Loretta Weinberg
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