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More than 100,000 people successfully collecting unemployment had their weekly benefit temporarily stopped, many of whom where unable to certify on time after filers were given just one half hour on specific days to certify, officials have acknowledged.

It's the latest in a string of problems for the state Labor Department, which runs the unemployment insurance system. The department has been overwhelmed by more than 1.1 million people filing for benefits since March 15.

Previously filers had a full hour to file online for certification on limited days. Filers also have more time at the end of each day and on weekends, according to the labor department. But the system has had technical issues many weekends and sometimes has gone down completely, said unemployment benefits activist Michelle Izzi, of Hillsborough in Somerset County.

According to the U.S. DOL, at its height in the week ending May 9, there were 715,433 people receiving benefits in New Jersey.

For the week ending May 16, the total collecting benefits fell to 601,963 — a drop of 113,470, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

When asked about the drop at Gov. Phil Murphy’s news conference Thursday, Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro–Angelo said the number reported by the federal Labor Department must be a mistake. But later state Labor Department spokesperson Angela Delli-Santi said the 113,000 were temporarily dropped and will be reinstated once they certify at the proper time.

Those who missed their times must be sure to certify for both the current and prior week to receive all of their benefits, Delli-Santi said.

Izzi, who runs a horse training and coaching business, said Tuesday people in her 5,000-member Facebook group #njunemploymentpandemic are still reporting problems, with benefits starting then stopping, or changing in amount without explanation.

She also said she is unconvinced that a group of 82,000 whose claims were delayed for weeks ever got paid, after Asaro-Angelo said he was waiving the need to talk to an agent for them. No one from the state Labor Department has answered questions about how many of the 82,000 actually got the email or began getting benefits.

Izzi has just recently begun receiving benefits under the federal CARES Act to help the self-employed, she said.

But she said while she got the $600 benefit the first week, she did not get it for the five back weeks for which she later got state payments.

“I’m somebody who is pretty knowledgeable how this is supposed to go,” Izzi said. “I don’t know why I would get $600 last week and nothing this week.”

She said others in her Facebook group have reported similar changes in amounts received, with the state providing no information on why the changes occur.

"That’s why he needs to be transparent," Izzi said of Murphy, "and there's been an OPRA (Open Public Records Act request), and he’s not complying."

In March, Murphy signed A-3849 into law, relaxing the seven-day deadline for governments to respond to requests for government records under OPRA during a declared emergency, such as the current COVID-19 crisis. 

"This is a really big issue," Izzi said of the lack of detailed information. "All 120 legislators need to stand up and change that immediately."

Contact: 609-272-7219

mpost@pressofac.com

Twitter @MichelleBPost

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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