‘I can’t afford Christmas.’ Ongoing unemployment issues cause upheaval in New Jersey

There are many New Jersey residents who are still struggling to receive unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of these families, the delay in getting their benefits is creating an incredible hardship.
Tom Violett, of Farmingdale, has been waiting 11 months for his unemployment funds. He has been informed in writing that he is eligible for the benefits, but the money never arrives in his account.
“It’s just so frustrating because I paid into the system. I did everything they asked me to do. Just send me my money,” he says.
Over time, the amount that the state owes Violett has accrued.
“This piece of paper says that they owe me over $19,000,” he says.
Violett is a construction manager by trade. But since being let go, and without unemployment, the family has been forced to rely on assistance from Monmouth County to put groceries in the fridge.
When Violett first applied for unemployment, he was told that someone has stolen his identity.
“Someone set up an account using all of my identification and I could go in and see a claim filed and money sitting in there. It was never taken out,” Violett says.
He was instructed to log on to ID-ME to get verified. An email he was sent in August stated that he was verified. But the Department of Labor said in November that they had no such record and that he would have to wait eight more weeks for benefits.
News 12 New Jersey heard a similar story from Manchester resident Frank Fellanto.
“It’s like scratching a lottery ticket on your phone and hoping you win the money they owe,” Fellanto says.
Fellanto was laid off from being a landscaper. He was told his money could be in his account on Tuesday. It was not.
“I woke up on the 7th – it wasn’t there. They told me another six-10 weeks,” he says.
While Violett has been trying to get help from his local state legislator, Fellanto has called Gov. Phil Murphy’s office. But he says that he got nowhere.
Fellanto says that his life has been turned upside down. Unable to afford rent, he has moved out of his own place and is now living with a friend.
“It’s in shambles. My truck is broke. I can’t afford Christmas,” he says.
Violett and Fellanto both say that they have not gotten any good reason why their benefits have been delayed.