New Jersey legislative trio to give State Department of Labor ultimatum to allow in-person appointments
A trio of legislators from New Jersey's 1st district announced Tuesday that they are prepared to introduce legislation that would require the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development to open the doors to the state unemployment offices for in-person appointments starting March 1, 2022.
If the Commissioner of the NJDOL Rob Asaro-Angelo and the office doesn't do so by that date, the legislation being proposed by Senator Michael Testa (R), Assemblymen Antwan McClellan (R), and Erik Simonsen (R), would cut the pay of the top leadership of the NJDOL -- the commissioner, deputy commissioner, assistant commissioners, and the NJDOL chief of staff -- and use that money for unemployed workers by 5 percent every two weeks, for the first month, and until all closed state unemployment offices are reopened.
The legislators explained that the money from the payment reductions would go into a special fund at the Department of the Treasury under an "Unemployed Workers Compensations Fund", which would repay filers harmed by the Department’s inaction.
“Teachers are back in classrooms, first responders are patrolling our streets, and medical professionals are in facilities caring for our most vulnerable. If they can serve out in the community, then so can Department of Labor employees,” Senator Testa said in a statement. “This failed system where Department employees work from their couch and get paid every two weeks is not working for all New Jerseyans. Commissioner Asaro-Angelo needs to do his job and order his employees back to work and this bill will incentivize him and his staff to do just that.”
“Our office has dealt with a countless number of people all dealing with the same issue, the failures of the NJDOL, and it is time to do something about it,” Assemblyman Simonsen said in a statement. "We will continue to help our constituents because we will not leave them in their time of need, but at the same time, we need to get to the root of the issue, which is the NJDOL not being accountable for their constant self-created failures: Failures that only hurt already struggling New Jerseyans. We will make sure the NJDOL is accountable for those failures. We cannot let government agencies believe they are above being accountable for their actions. New Jerseyans deserve accountability from government agencies and their elected officials.”
“People are fed up and need assistance, but the NJDOL continues to keep their doors closed,” Assemblyman McClellan said in a statement. “The One-Stop centers are open, but New Jerseyans cannot access many of the needed NJDOL’s services at those locations. Schools, department stores, and other government offices are back open, yet the NJDOL has not budged, refusing to open its doors to the very people the department is supposed to help. The NJDOL’s unfair and unprofessional actions have hindered many New Jerseyans while creating a massive backlog of people waiting for services and benefits. They forget they are servants of the people, not the other way around. When a government agency performs in this matter, it is time for elected officials to stand up to lead the charge. I am incredibly proud that my fellow District One legislators are stepping up to do what needs to be done to hold the NJDOL accountable.”
While Testa, McClellan, and Simonsen are glad the One-Stop Centers are functioning, they explained that having these centers open for in-person visits would speed things up, as they relayed in a January letter.
“Many issues that are taking anywhere from six to eight weeks to process could be resolved in six to eight minutes with the restoration of in-person services."
Senator Testa expressed his displeasure, in an interview with Townsquare Media News, at the NJDOL's pat on the back last month on how they handled 2021.
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"You had the commissioner from the Department of Labor being applauded for the great job that they have done. If I had to give the Department of Labor a grade, they would get, at best, a D," Testa previously told Townsquare Media News. "Let's be honest about their performances during the Covid-19 era, they are still not seeing people in person. There are thousands upon thousands of people my legislative district office has helped."