Jobless benefits appeals focus of upcoming hearing

TRENTON – The Senate Labor Committee Monday will hear testimony from state officials about why it has been taking so long for residents to have their appeals heard after they’re turned down for unemployment benefits.

The issue of the delays came to light a few weeks ago, when the three 20th Legislative District lawmakers – Sen. Ray Lesniak, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and Assemblyman Joe Cryan – said several constituents reported to them about delays and lengthy waiting times to have their appeals heard.

Labor Department officials have said they are working with federal officials to expedite the process. The state labor department pointed out it had to contend with a barrage of unemployment insurance claims following the recession, and its own staff levels were smaller than previous years.

Brian Murray, spokesman for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, also pointed out that 75 percent of the appeals that are heard tend to be unsuccessful, with no change in the outcome.

Between the state and federal benefits, New Jersey residents can receive unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks. The term 99ers was coined to describe individuals who exhausted all their benefits.

The Legislature has taken various steps to address the unemployment situation in recent years, including making it more difficult to qualify for benefits if there was misconduct with the employer, and temporarily raising the unemployment insurance tax on employers to raise revenue for the heavily-tapped U.I. fund.

These matters will also be discussed at the hearing.

Jobless benefits appeals focus of upcoming hearing