Department of Labor resumes in-person meetings to deal with unemployment issues
Just under half of New Jersey’s One-Stop Career Centers reopened on Monday for people with unemployment issues to have in-person meetings.
The centers had been opened during the pandemic for virtual and telephonic workforce assistance. Mondays’ meetings were by appointment only.
“I haven’t been paid unemployment for almost two years,” says Roy Narine.
Narine is a Navy veteran. He arrived 45 minutes early, armed with his paperwork and with skepticism that anyone could help him get the money he is owned for a previous stint of unemployment.
“I have all the documentation, screenshots showing that I was approved and then, later on, the director sends me an email or a letter saying, ‘You are not eligible,’” Narine says. “I think they're going to come back and try and give me the runaround again.”
But nearly an hour later, Narine walked out of the One-Stop pleasantly surprised.
“I walked out of there with a little bit of relief, so hopefully they take care of it,” he says.
The centers are still not accepting walk-in appointments. The Department of Labor says that the best way to deal with lingering unemployment issues is by contacting the department online or by phone.
Debbie Chambliss lost her job in February and says she has been unable to get her unemployment since then. She didn't have an appointment Monday, and was turned away.
“Open this stuff up and let people come back into these places. They’ve got to stop with this. They’ve got to stop,” Chambliss says.
Some of New Jersey’s lawmakers agree with Chambliss and feel her frustration.
“I just really think that the Murphy administration and their commissioner are just completely out of touch with the average New Jerseyan and what they're going through,” says Republican state Sen. Mike Testa.
Testa was among those who grilled Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo during a Senate hearing earlier this month.
“People want to be able to talk one-on-one to a person. They don't want to wait on hold for hours at a time. They don't want to look at a computer screen for hours at a time,” he says. “They want government to be face-to-face.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Labor tells News 12 that the department wants to help as many claimants as possible to resolve their issues on the day of their visit, if possible. The spokesperson also said that the department will provide information on the number of appointments throughout the state at the end of the week.