Senator Declan O’Scanlon issued the following statement today during the Independent Hearing on Unemployment:
Sen. Declan O’Scanlon said the labor commissioner and staff failed to appreciate the scope and severity of the problems unemployed New Jerseyans were facing. (YouTube/NJ Senate Republicans)
“While the labor Commissioner and the staff tried hard, it was obvious there was no recognition of dramatic nature of our unemployment insurance system’s failure from the top. The administration failed to assess the scope of the problems, the dire, life-threatening severity of the impact of the challenges people were facing.
“As time has gone on – from month to excruciating month – it has become apparent that there is both a heartbreaking lack of empathy for the people even to this day being tortured by this system, and a lack of will to do anything about it.
“To be clear, I’m not aiming most of my ire at the staff or even the Commissioner of the Labor Department. While I am sure some blame will be directed their way today, my focus is on the lack of vision and concern on the part of the administration. In regular interactions with the Commissioner and staff at the department, it became clear that they were as frustrated with the system as was my staff and I.
“I understand early on – with the sudden, crushing onslaught of claims – that there would be breakdowns and delays, but to this day, we still have folks who have been trying to collect for months.
“We’re still getting dozens of calls each week, and these are brutal, tearful interactions from people who can’t feed their families or pay their bills. For many, the reverberations will go on for years as these folks deal with repercussions of damaged credit that will impact their ability to qualify for mortgages and car loans.
“The solution was obvious. Even with our outdated system, we have been given billions of dollars in aid from the federal government. We had thousands of idle workers both within state government, just from MVC in early months of the crisis, and within the damaged private sector.
“Every effort should have been made to mobilize and train these people to help. The money was there to do this. It was the lack of will, the strategic foresight, management and true empathy for the victims of this failure that caused this tragedy for so many victims of this system.
“My staff, after helping people numbering not dozens or hundreds, but thousands – along with Assemblyman Scharfenberger’s staff that helped hundreds more from our district – is worn out physically & emotionally from this tragedy and deserve a special round of thanks for going above and beyond during this past year and will still today and tomorrow and for months to come.
“I look forward to hearing from all the folks who have agreed to speak out today to help us put real faces to this nightmare, and to working to resolve the issues for folks who STILL have not been paid, and to fixing the system so this can never happen again.
“Thank you, Chairman.”
To view the Independent Hearing on Unemployment, CLICK HERE