Buono slams proposed amendment to unemployment insurance system: Christie Administation slams back

TRENTON – Testifying before Labor Department officials on the proposed amendment requiring people receiving unemployment insurance to register in work search programs, Democratic gubernatorial candidate  Barbara Buono said Gov. Chris Christie is “surprisingly out of touch,” saying the proposal creates another “barrier” for those seeking help.

Buono said the proposal is particularly problematic for working- and middle-class families because some of them don’t have ready access to the Internet. Many people are known to register for unemployment programs via the Internet.

“While Internet access may not seem like a big deal to the governor, it poses a significant burden on working and middle class families who are just trying to stay afloat,” she said.

She estimated that some 20 percent of residents lack online access.

She said the problem is exacerbated because in many communities, the local libraries – which in recent years have really stepped up as job search centers – may also not be readily available to them, since budget cuts on many levels have forced some to scale back hours and services.

“The governor has shown he’s out of touch, presuming everyone can easily access the Web,” said Buono, a longtime senator of the 18th Legislative District. “It seeks to label anyone who lacks that ability to access the Internet, who fails to register online, as not ‘actively seeking work.’”

In a statement, Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for the administration, said Buono has her facts wrong.

“Senator Buono has shown herself to be surprisingly ill-informed about the rule proposal for someone who opted to testify about it today.”

He elaborated, “using the jobs4jersey.com (or any other job-search) website is not made mandatory by this rule and the department is not creating any additional requirements than what previously exists for individuals to certify they are looking for work.

“What the rule will do is provide job-seekers another option to satisfy the work search requirement, while providing continued flexibility of other certification options – by phone or in-person for those who don’t have internet access, for example.”

The Labor Department held a public hearing today to collect testimony on the proposed change. It was not well attended.