The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) has begun to implement various changes to the state’s unemployment system to better handle the large number of claims due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, including upgrading computer technology, adding more personnel and boosting phone capacity, according to a press release.
“I feel it in the pit of my stomach for every worker’s claim we haven’t gotten to yet,” said Robert Asaro-Angelo, commissioner of the NJDOL, according to the release. “We are paying benefits to nearly 300,000 New Jerseyans, but that is of little consequence if your claim isn’t one of them. Our entire staff empathizes with your frustration and uncertainty. That’s why we have been working around the clock to find solutions to common problems weighing on the system.”
Hundreds of laptops have been distributed this week to allow more claims agents and support staff to work from home in order to speed up the processing time for claims that require an agent review, according to this release. This also allows more staff to address customer questions.
The NJDOL also expanded the capacity of their call centers to handle more calls and reduce the wait times for individuals, according to the release. In addition to this, an automated email reply has been developed so residents receive a reply that specifically directs them to the appropriate FAQ on the NJDOL’s website.
In regard to supplemental unemployment payments, the NJDOL has processed and distributed the first batch of payments yesterday and today, according to the release. Approximately 258,062 New Jersey residents have received this additional $600 in their accounts.
These are just a few of the measures being put in place to better respond to the large number of unemployment claims, according to the release. As of March 15, 576,904 New Jersey residents have applied for unemployment, which is a 1,600 percent increase from the week prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The unceasing efforts of our Division of Information Technology and Unemployment Insurance staff, coupled with the assistance of the Office of Information Technology staff, have enabled us to reconfigure our legacy computer systems to serve more customers than ever before,” Asaro-Angelo said, according to the release. “They have been working nonstop since the pandemic struck New Jersey, and I want to thank them for their commitment to getting benefits to everyone who deserves them as quickly as possible.”