Gov. Murphy’s budget offers few specifics on fixing state’s broken unemployment system

Gov. Phil Murphy introduced a new $44.8 billion budget proposal in an address Tuesday morning. But many are criticizing the budget for offering very little specifics on how it will fix the state’s troubled unemployment system.
“This time it’s telling me my identity needs to be verified and to call these numbers. I’ve called those numbers over 100 times a day,” says Brick Township resident Trista Kebeck.
Kebeck, a single mother of three, says that it was almost two months before she spoke to an actual person from the unemployment office.
“She just told me that she apologized, and she doesn’t believe it should be like this and it’s looking about like an eight, nine-week backlog,” Kebeck says.
She says that by then she will be down $7,000.
The state’s unemployment system has been plagued by poor communication, no communication and confusion during the COVID-19 pandemic. People have been stuck in the system, forced to wait months for their benefits.
Murphy says that the pandemic has exposed the system’s shortcomings.
"We're investing in modernizing critical operations and technologies in the Motor Vehicle Commission and in our unemployment systems in the Department of Labor,” Murphy said in his address.
But the governor did not provide any examples of these changes. New Jersey Republicans have accused him of glossing over unemployment.
State Sen. Mike Testa said in a statement, "The governor also didn't explain what resources he will dedicate to fixing an ancient computer system that has made it impossible for unemployed workers to get the benefits they're owed in a timely fashion."
The budget puts $8 million aside for the unemployment system – less than 1%. But it is double the previous amount.
As a seasonal worker, Kebeck says that she has had success with the system before. She can't understand why it's failing at a time she needs it most.
"They're saying that a lot of people aren't getting their unemployment because they answered one question wrong. That's not fair because I've answered everything right and I never had this issue before and now they're trying to say it's because we did something wrong and I don't believe that's true,” she says.
Two million people filed for unemployment at the start of the pandemic. That number has gone down considerably over time. Murphy has often said that the Department of Labor is doing a great job with the claims.