More than two years after the pandemic began, some New Jersey residents are still having problems with their unemployment insurance claims.

One Garden State lawmaker is pushing a plan to force the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development to speed up the process of helping New Jersey residents get the benefits they are entitled to.

No prompts, a real live person

Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R- Monmouth, said his measure, A3436, would require the state Department of Labor to maintain a telephone hotline that must “be manned at a minimum, 8:30 in the morning till 5:30 at night, and you have to get a live person — no prompts, live person. I want to speak to them on the phone.”

He said individuals calling the hotline would not have to wait more than 30 minutes before being connected with an actual person.

“This bill requires that these representatives must meet minimal training requirements, they must be able to answer the questions, solve the questions. Enough is enough," he said.

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The legislation specifies representatives employed by the hotline would be required to be trained to knowledgeably:

• Address general inquiries regarding the New Jersey unemployment insurance program and benefits
• Assist callers with specific claim questions, issues, concerns, and troubleshooting, including but not limited to assessing whether someone is likely to qualify for unemployment compensation.

• The representative would also need to be able to provide instructions on how to file an unemployment compensation claim, and provide assistance in obtaining and interpreting information on the 1099 tax form.

• They would also be required to provide information on an individual’s pending unemployment claim, including but not limited to, the status of the claim, potential solutions and troubleshooting of any issues regarding an individual’s eligibility or other barriers to the individual collecting unemployment compensation benefits.

Hire more people

Dancer said his measure would also require the Department of Labor to hire the people needed to do this job.

“This is not recovery mode. This is disaster, financial disaster for thousands and thousands of hardworking New Jerseyans that have paid into the insurance, and they can’t get their money," he said.

The measure would also require unemployment insurance phone hotline numbers to be prominently displayed on the Department of Labor website.

He said unfortunately this Department is still dysfunctional

“It should never have come to this, this is a calamity that has been in the process and in the making for years, enough is enough.”

Dancer said he expects support from both sides of the aisle

The legislation also stipulates the Department of Labor must process all claims for unemployment benefits within two weeks of filing by a claimant. Current law provides the Department is required to process claims within three weeks.

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