Dept. of Labor unveils new chat feature as unemployment backlog persists

The New Jersey Department of Labor has made some changes to try to get state residents their unemployment benefits as a major backlog of claims persists.

News 12 Staff

May 12, 2020, 9:43 PM

Updated 1,437 days ago

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The New Jersey Department of Labor has made some changes to try to get state residents their unemployment benefits as a major backlog of claims persists.
The department says that 700,000 New Jerseyans are now receiving unemployment benefits, but hundreds of thousands are still waiting. Many say that the backlog has become beyond frustrating, as they struggle to get anyone from the department to answer their calls and questions.
“I’m really lost. I don’t know what to do,” says Robert Mami, of Vernon.
Mami, a limousine driver, has been out of work for six weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. He says that he has seen some of his fellow coworkers getting their benefits. He says that he logs onto the Labor Department’s website each day, but each time it says, “zero monies paid,” prompting him to call the department.
“They tell you all lines are busy, please call back at another time,” Mami says. “They state that they are open from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Well, yesterday, they said they’re closed at 4:20 p.m.”
The Department of Labor has now hired 130 new people and created a chat feature for the website to help answer the most common questions.
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“Be it eligibility determination, programs they qualify for, when they can expect to see benefits,” says Department of Labor chief information officer Sharon Pagano.
Pagano says that the chat feature also frees up agents to work on claims.
“With 50,000 inquiries within the first few days, that is that many less phone calls coming into the lines where agents are working with claimants who truly need the help of an agent,” Pagano says.
But Mami says that he tried the chat feature and did not get a response. He says that it told him that they have his information, but he was asked to continue to wait for his benefits.
The Labor Department says that since mid-March, it has dealt with more than 1 million unemployment claims.


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