Many New Jerseyans eager to get back to work as unemployment claims stall

The New Jersey Department of Labor says that those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits may be eligible for a 13-week extension.

News 12 Staff

May 21, 2020, 3:03 AM

Updated 1,435 days ago

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The New Jersey Department of Labor says that those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits may be eligible for a 13-week extension.
But there are still thousands of New Jersey residents who have yet to even get through to the Labor Department to get their initial unemployment benefits.
“If I have to go food shopping tomorrow and if I have to pay a couple of bills by the 1st of June, we will be done. We will be out of money,” says Arthur Cole of Winfield Park.
Cole and his wife have been living off their $2,400 stimulus check, but the money is nearly gone.
“I leave the house once a week, which is to go Friday with my N95 and gloves on to go food shopping,” he says.
Cole says that he is doing his part during the pandemic and he says that the Labor Department should do theirs.
Cole’s wife is retired and he had been in training at Union County College for a job in supply chain management. This was before the pandemic restrictions. He says that he has been trying every day for over six weeks to get through to the department about unemployment.
“During these past six weeks, I would say I’ve sent them 10 emails and getting a no-reply response,” he says.
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The Department of Labor says that it is overwhelmed by unemployment claims. The department received 69,689 claims between May 3-9 and over 1 million claims since the COVID-19 outbreak in New Jersey began.
There is another group of workers who desperately want to get back to work – barbers and hairstylists.
Dozens of them gathered in Verona on Wednesday, holding signs with the names of the salons where they work. All barbershops and hair salons are closed and the state has not said when they would be able to reopen.
“We don’t want people going rogue and doing whatever they want to do and open. We want to communicate,” says salon owner Jack Panico.
The salon owners say that they have plans in place to protect staff and customers from the virus.
“We social distanced our salons. We will be working with a 50% capacity,” says Kellie Johnson of Elan Studio.
New Jersey Department of Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo is expected to speak Thursday at the governor’s daily media briefing.


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