TRENTON – The Assembly Labor Committee on Thursday released a legislative bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo (D-14), Gary Schaer (D-36), Gabriela Mosquera (D-4) and Raj Mukherji (D-31) designed to better protect the state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund from fraud and ensure it’s used only by those it was created to assist – unemployed New Jerseyans.
“Out-of-work New Jerseyans deserve this help, and every taxpayer deserves to know the benefits system they pay into is protected as best as possible from fraud that, in the end, only costs everyone more money,” said DeAngelo (pictured). “The unemployment fund exists to help New Jerseyans get back on their feet as they find work, and it should be protected for their use and their use only. With these few basic steps, we can better ensure that happens. And with the an unemployment rate higher than much of the nation, this is a must.”
According to the Assembly Majority Office, the bills:
- A2946 (Schaer)/A3154 (DeAngelo) – Both bills direct the controller of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, upon a determination that an employer has failed to pay any required contribution to the unemployment compensation fund, the state disability benefits fund or the Family Temporary Disability Leave Account, and has not made the required payment after notification by the controller and has not been approved for an extension of time in which to make the payment or for other deferral of payment, to notify the Division of Budget and Accounting in the Department of the Treasury of the failure. If the employer is under contract to provide goods or services to the state, the division is required to utilize the set-off procedures provided by law to withhold state payments to the vendor equal to the delinquent amount for deposit into the appropriate fund together with a 25% administrative fee to be deposited into the unemployment compensation auxiliary fund or the administration account of the SDBF. A portion of the fines would be used to reimburse the division for its expenses.
“This is a common sense step to ensure employers are doing the right thing and protect taxpayers,” said Schaer. “Employers who fail to do the right thing when it comes to our unemployment fund are simply making it even more difficult for law-abiding businesses and taxpayers. This bill is a fiscally responsible step in the proper direction.”
- A3153 (DeAngelo) – This bill clarifies that all payments, reports and receipts from employers related to the unemployment compensation program, and required pursuant to state law, must be submitted or remitted directly to the Division of Revenue in the Department of the Treasury.
- A3155 (DeAngelo) – This bill requires the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to establish and maintain a procedure by which personnel access rights to the department’s primary system for unemployment claims receipt and processing are comprehensively reviewed every calendar quarter. The Office of the State Auditor conducted an audit on the department’s Local Office Online Payment System, the department’s current claims receipt and processing system, for the period August 8, 2011 through May 31, 2013. The report recommended that the department should periodically review personnel access rights to LOOPS in order to reduce the risk of errors, fraud, misuse or unauthorized alteration in the receipt of unemployment claims and the processing of unemployment payments.
- A3156 (DeAngelo) – This bill shortens the time period in which certain employers are required to file reports on wages earned by their employees, and changes the date those reports are required to be filed with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The purpose of this bill is to provide a more timely system for the reporting of wages to the department to ensure that unemployed individuals are collecting an accurate level of benefits and to assist the department in identifying individuals who may be collecting benefits for which they are not eligible.
- A3425 (Mosquera/Mukherji) – This bill provides that an individual is not disqualified from unemployment insurance benefits for voluntarily leaving work if the individual leaves work with one employer to accept from another employer employment that commences not more than seven days after the individual leaves employment with the first employer, and the employment with the second employer has weekly hours or pay not less than the hours or pay of the employment of the first employer, except that if the individual notifies the first employer that the individual will leave employment on a specified date and the first employer terminates the individual before that date, the seven-day period will commence from the specified date.
“In this difficult economy, workers are making difficult decisions for any number of reasons, and they should not be penalized due to outdated state law,” said Mosquera. “We need to make sure unemployment benefits are there when needed for each and every worker in need.”
“We need to be as compassionate as possible in these challenging economic times, when many workers need to make tough decisions in their family’s interest and change jobs from time to time,” said Mukherji. “This is, quite simply, pro-worker common sense legislation that will allow us to join 31 other states in eliminating a disqualification and help struggling New Jerseyans find stability.”