Virus Outbreak New Jersey

A worker waits to distribute free meals at the doorway entrance of Elijah's Promise Community Kitchen because of social distancing needs while wearing personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 concerns, Friday, April 10, 2020, in New Brunswick, N.J. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – New Jersey state Sens. Kristin Corrado, R-Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic, and Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, called on the Department of Labor and the Murphy administration to open unemployment offices in-person to help applicants whose unemployment benefits are being blocked.

Unemployment applicants have reported their claims flagged as fraudulent and are required to provide a proof of identity before funds can be released. With in-person locations closed, applicants are directed to an online system that does not work, the senators said.

“They should be able to show their social security cards and photo IDs at unemployment office to prove their identity and have their payments released,” Corrado said.

The New jersey Department of Labor partnered with in a no-bid contract to provide applicants with a system to submit documents electronically. But the lawmakers say the system does not work.

“People are angry. They have paid into the system for years, and now that they need the money, they can’t get it,” Weinberg said. “Residents who submitted their identifying documents many weeks ago are now being told NJDOL changed the fraud email portal and they will have to start all over.”

Unemployment claims that remain open go back into a queue, forcing applicants to wait another six or eight weeks for a response.

“Instead of solving problems, the Department of Labor has only made things worse,” Weinberg said.

The Department of Labor has identified more than a quarter million fraudulent unemployment claims.

“I’m afraid some, maybe most of them are being held up without merit,” Corrado said. “It shouldn’t be this difficult for hardworking taxpayers to confirm their identities.

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