N.J. workers struggling to file for unemployment won’t lose ‘one penny,’ Murphy vows

Posted Apr 09, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday tried to reassure many New Jerseyans who are having trouble getting through the state’s phone and online systems to file for unemployment benefits after losing work because of the coronavirus crisis.

“You will not lose one penny of that which is owed to you,” Murphy said Thursday afternoon during a television appearance on News 12 New Jersey. “Know you are not going to miss out on one penny of this.”

Murphy stressed that the Garden State — which has the second-most COVID-19 cases in among U.S. states — is going through “unprecedented moments” because of the pandemic.

“The level of unemployment claims are multiples of any other experience in the history of our state,” he said.

New Jersey has seen a record number of unemployment claims after Murphy last month ordered residents to stay home and indefinitely closed non-essential businesses in the state to slow the virus’ spread. Over the last three weeks, nearly 577,000 residents have filed for the benefits.

Meanwhile, frustrated workers have complained they are not able to file via the state’s phone and online systems, which have been besieged by high demand.

The state has partially blamed the internet troubles on a 40-year-old mainframe. To help, state officials have put out a call to volunteers with knowledge of how to use COBOL, or Common Business-Oriented Language — the old programming language the mainframe uses.

Murphy said state Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo has suggested people “get on the website early in the morning or late at night” when there is less traffic.

The governor also stressed that “New Jersey is not alone” because other states “are going through hell” because of similar lockdown measures. Only seven other states have more claims so far: California (925,450), Georgia (388,175), Michigan (384,844), New York (345,246), Texas (313,832), Pennsylvania (283,718), and Ohio (224,182).

New Jersey, a state of 9 million residents, has at least 51,027 cases and 1,700 deaths from COVID-19, state officials announced Thursday. That’s more than any U.S. state but New York.

The state could see its peak number of hospitalizations from the virus in the next few days, following by the peak number of cases over the next few weeks. And Murphy said there are signs the rate of infection in New Jersey is beginning to slow.

But the governor has said he’s not close to lifting his social-distancing restrictions because the state needs to make sure the virus doesn’t “boomerang” in the future.

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