NEW JERSEY – Governor Phil Murphy Friday signed legislation (S2357) which makes certain changes to the administration of the State’s unemployment insurance (“UI”) system to increase the system’s efficiency and expedite timely benefits payments.
The Legislature concurred with the Governor’s conditional veto of an earlier version of the legislation, as the Governor had recommended changes necessary to ensure compliance with federal law.
“As we work to enhance the UI system, we must ensure that the process is timely and transparent from start to finish,” Murphy said. “The revisions sent back to the Legislature ensure compliance with federal law and I commend the bill’s sponsors for their dedication to improving our State’s UI system. Every eligible recipient of unemployment benefits deserves to receive assistance as expeditiously and efficiently as possible.”
“We distributed $37 billion to more than 2 million workers during the pandemic, but we never want to see even one resident struggle to pay their bills or find a new job,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “That’s why we are so proud to be partnering with the US Department of Labor to develop a new, modern, agile unemployment system that is accessible, equitable and designed to shorten the time it takes for eligible workers to receive benefits. We are grateful to our legislative partners for continuing to advocate for their constituents and our claimants, and for giving us more tools to speed the review process for benefits.”
Primary sponsors of the bill include Senators Fred Madden Jr. and Joseph Lagana, and Assemblymembers Paul Moriarty, Shama Haider, and Joe Danielsen.
“This law is a response to the processing delays and wait times seen during a critical time of high unemployment during the coronavirus crisis. It will provide much needed relief to claimants by expediting the determination and appeals process and by providing more options for claimants to speak directly with department staff to resolve issues,” said Senator Fred Madden, the Chairman of the Senate Labor Committee. “The unemployment compensation system is meant to help people at a difficult time in their lives and this reform will help the program live up to its purpose.”
“Certainly these last few pandemic years have been difficult for people and placed a stress on government agencies. Yet we must remember delays in processing unemployment benefits have real-world consequences. These delays might be the difference on whether families can pay their monthly bills or put food on the table,” said Senator Joe Lagana. “This law will make sure all eligible individuals are being served and receiving benefits they’ve earned in a timely manner, so they in turn might stave off any unnecessary financial burdens.”
“We cannot allow processing delays to prevent individuals from receiving the unemployment benefits they are owed, especially when these benefits could mean the difference between paying their bills or feeding their families. This law will ensure New Jersey residents are able to claim the unemployment benefits they are eligible for without delay, preventing families from enduring excessive financial hardships during already difficult times,” said Assemblymembers Paul Moriarty, Shama Haider, and Joe Danielsen, sponsors of the legislation.
The recommendations outlined in the conditional veto include revisions to ensure that benefits are paid in conformity with federal law. These revisions authorize the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Division of Unemployment and Temporary Disability Insurance to permit an employer to communicate information with the Division by methods other than electronic communication in those limited circumstances where an employer has demonstrated an inability to communicate electronically.
The recommended changes also clarify that overpayments paid under the federal CARES Act may only be waived if the Division determines that both the overpayment was not the fault of the claimant and repayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience. The revisions also specify that pursuant to federal law and regulations, benefits may not be paid to a claimant for an overturned period of disqualification for any week during which the claimant has failed to provide to the division a weekly certification evidencing the claimant’s eligibility for benefits.