NJ Dept. of Labor says workers who experienced unemployment delays will soon receive their money
There's relief in sight for the 75,000 unemployed New Jerseyans who have spent weeks waiting for their 11-week federal extensions. The New Jersey Department of Labor says no more workers will experience payment delays as their old benefits lapse, and it will begin catching up on payments next Friday to those who have gone without benefits.
Kane In Your Corner first reported about the benefits delay in an exclusive investigation last month. The workers had exhausted their previous benefits, but the NJDOL had yet to reprogram its 40-year-old computers to accommodate the new extensions.
"We now expect to be up and running by…Feb. 12," NJDOL Commissioner Robert Asaro Angelo says.
Asaro Angelo insists the payment delays are "not strictly a New Jersey problem." He blames the Trump administration for rolling out the new stimulus too late for states to adjust.
"Many of the same headlines you've seen this week have been written all over the country, for the same reason," Asaro Angelo says. "Even states like California and Massachusetts, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade modernizing their systems, are having the exact same problems."
RELATED: Stuck in the system: 33,000 NJ claimants still unable to receive unemployment extension benefits
But Kane In Your Corner finds those comments are not completely accurate.
While most states did struggle to pay workers, who had exhausted their old benefits before the new extensions were passed, New Jersey also failed to make payments to a larger group of people whose benefits expired after. Most states paid that group without much difficulty.
It's the latest in a series of comments from NJDOL regarding the 11-week extensions that have either been less than completely accurate or have featured language parsed so carefully that it left some unemployed workers feeling confused and angry.
In late January, NJDOL spokesperson Angela Delli-Santi told Kane In Your Corner that “anyone who was currently receiving benefits when the new stimulus bill (on Dec. 27) was enacted are receiving the 11-week extension without interruption.”
That was news to Larry Geer and others, whose benefits ran out after the stimulus passed.
"My last week was Jan. 2, so I should have kept rolling right along, and I didn't," Geer says. "I don't know how you could get it, since it's not programmed for it."
The NJDOL appeared to be picking its words very carefully. Just because someone was "receiving the 11-week extension" didn't mean they were "receiving money".
Kane In Your Corner asked the NJDOL if any of them were, but a spokesperson did not return repeated emails, and Asaro-Angelo avoided the question altogether. "Anyone who was continuing their claims and who hadn't exhausted all of their benefits, there was no break in their services or benefits," he said.
The NJDOL also initially told Kane In Your Corner that "a small fraction of claimants, roughly 33,000", were seeing a delay in benefits. That was an outdated figure. A few days later, the state clarified that the number of unpaid claims was, around 75,000 and that it included people whose benefits had lapsed both before and after the new stimulus had passed.
The good news is that starting next week, the state now says those claims will start getting paid.