Senator Michael Testa grilled Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo during his testimony in front of the Senate Labor Committee today.
Sen. Michael Testa faced off with Department of Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo during a hearing on unemployment in the Senate Labor Committee. (SenateNJ.com)
“We held the commissioner’s feet to the fire. The Department of Labor hasn’t been doing their job and we called him out on it,” said Testa, who brought the concerns of thousands of district constituents to the state house today.
“I can tell you, people in New Jersey want to be able to walk into a One Stop Center and get help with their unemployment claim,” Testa said during the hearing, responding to Asaro-Angelo’s insistence that residents can get help online or by phone, and his defense of the lack of access to department personnel for in-person assistance.
“Those are words. We’re about action at this point,” Testa told the commissioner. “My constituents want to know why they can’t go to the One Stop in Vineland to get help. They want to see your Department employees face-to-face. It’s amazing to me that we are all meeting here in this room today, in-person, but people who don’t have money to put food on their table can’t get help in person,” Testa said.
Testa noted that over the course of two years, his legislative offices have “essentially become satellite offices for the Department of Labor.”
Desperate and frustrated residents who can’t get help unemployment help from the Department have turned to legislative offices across the state. In the 1st legislative district, staff members have helped nearly 3500 people in the two years since state offices shut their doors.
“People are struggling, people are crying on the telephone,” the Senator said to the embattled Labor Commissioner. “Constituents know your employees haven’t missed a paycheck, and they don’t understand why they still can’t get money they are owed or why they can’t get an answer.”
Testa recently introduced legislation, S-2082/A-3517, requiring state unemployment offices to fully reopen immediately to provide in-person services.
“Teachers are back in classrooms, first responders are patrolling our streets, and medical professionals are in facilities caring for our most vulnerable. If they can serve out in the community, then so can Department of Labor employees,” said Testa when he introduced the measure at a press conference in February. “This failed system where Department employees work from their couch and get paid every two weeks is not working for all New Jerseyans. Commissioner Asaro-Angelo needs to do his job and order his employees back to work and this bill will incentivize him and his staff to do just that.”
The Senator pressed to have the bill added to the agenda for the last two Senate Labor Committee meetings, but to no avail.
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