NJDOL looks back on 2021 achievements while continuing to help workers and businesses amid the ongoing global pandemic
NJDOL looks back on the achievements of 2021 while continuing to
Aid workers and businesses amid the ongoing global pandemic
TRENTON – No state has been spared the tsunami of jobless claims or the challenges of implementing new federal benefit programs that continued through 2021, the first full calendar year of the COVID-19 pandemic . New Jersey alone received just under 2.5 million initial claims for benefits. Despite this huge increase in workload, NJDOL is proud to have distributed nearly $ 40 billion in COVID-related benefits to 1.6 million workers in the past 21 months, while advancing others. federal and state missions of the department.
“Make no mistake, the Ministry of Labor has a huge mission,” said Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. âThere will certainly be new, lingering challenges over the coming year, but at all times our team – and the entire Murphy administration – is motivated by the continued struggle on behalf of our workers and employers who follow the law and do the right thing. . Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made tremendous progress over the past 12 months. ”
MODERNIZATION OF UNEMPLOYMENT
As of November, New Jersey had recovered about 76% of the jobs lost as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a cumulative total of 5.5 million weeks of continuous unemployment benefits were claimed during the year, a 103% increase over claims before the pandemic. At its peak of 2021, NJDOL experienced its highest call volume in June 2021, with an average daily call volume of 12,476 connections handled. Thanks to increased staff and improved processes, the average call wait time in December 2021 was less than 3 minutes.
To help address the historical volume of complaints, NJDOL continued to automate. A new online employer response to the electronic arbitration process allows employers to electronically provide separation information when an unemployment claim is filed. This programming upgrade eliminated the need for employers to return forms by mail.
To date, NJDOL has identified more than 500,000 attempted fraudulent claims and avoided more than $ 5.4 billion in losses.
Part of the credit goes to ID.me, a company specializing in identity verification. In New Jersey and over 20 other states, ID.me performs identity checks on all new claims. To date, 183,000 applicants have successfully confirmed their identity. However, that represents less than a third of all requesters we referred to ID.me, signaling that many of the remaining 529,000 could be attempted fraudulent requests.
In mid-December, NJDOL announced it had been chosen by its federal partners from the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) and the US Digital Service (USDS), housed in the President’s office, as a pilot state for the modernization and improvement of the federal insurance system. unemployment. The aim of the Claimant Experience Pilot is to design an application system that provides fair and timely access to unemployment benefits for eligible workers, while eliminating identity theft and the sophisticated fraud networks that have crippled payment systems. state throughout the pandemic.
FAMILY LEAVE AND TEMPORARY DISABILITY INSURANCE
The Accessible Employment Services Division reported that most requests for temporary disability leave and family leave are processed within two weeks. Specifically, 80 percent of temporary disability claims and 75 percent of family leave claims filed online are processed within 9 days, with the same percentage of paper claims processed within 14 days.
The Temporary Disability Insurance Program provides cash benefits to workers in New Jersey who must stop working because of a physical or mental health problem or other disability unrelated to their job. Family Leave Insurance provides up to 12 weeks of cash benefits for time spent away from work to bond with your new child before your baby’s first birthday, as well as additional job protections.
CAREER SERVICES AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
NJDOL’s career services office has served more than 400,000 workers through its one-stop career centers since the onset of the pandemic – both virtually and through the addition of in-person services by appointment.
In March 2021, NJDOL launched SkillUp New Jersey, a free virtual training program to help job seekers upgrade their skills and training for certification. Nearly 20,000 New Jersey residents have completed a SkillUp training course through the department.
The Office of Business Services has worked directly with more than 3,000 employers to fill vacancies as the so-called big resignation continues to impact businesses. Over 2.8 million job matches took place in 2021, introducing the employer community to potential job seekers.
Continuing this mission, Governor Murphy’s Return and Earn program took an innovative approach to pandemic recovery by incentivizing small employers to hire and provide on-the-job training for workers, while providing job applicants unemployment an incentive of $ 500 to re-enter the labor market. Since the program began in September, 3,893 employers have expressed interest in the program; NJDOL has contracted with 92 employers to date for a $ 733,000 investment in the New Jersey workforce. Interested employers can visit nj.gov/labor/returnandearn for more information.
NJDOL has advanced its mission of expanding learning opportunities this year by distributing more than $ 9 million in grants to partners who will support and expand learning programs across the state. Apprenticeship in New Jersey has increased 90% since Governor Murphy took office, embracing the apprenticeship model of apprenticeship that originated in the building trades and opened it up to a wide variety of fields and positions.
In fiscal 2021, the ministry provided nearly $ 850,000 through NJBUILD’s program to women and minority groups in construction trades at the Newark Workforce Development Board, Hudson County Building Trades and Elizabeth Development Company.
RIGHTS AND PROTECTION OF WORKERS
The Wages and Hours and Contracts Compliance Division recovered the wages of 3,473 workers in FY21, for a total of nearly $ 4.3 million. Additionally, using new tools and resources to expand enforcement of worker protections, NJDOL conducted a multi-agency working group’s first investigation on classification errors in construction in collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Banking and Insurance.
In 2022, the new Office of Strategic Enforcement and Compliance will oversee and coordinate departmental divisions and other state agencies to focus on protecting workers from misclassification and ensuring that Employers follow the law and provide employees with access to the benefits they have. won.
New Jersey remains at the forefront of national conversations on issues of modernizing unemployment and protecting the workforce. In February 2021, Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo was chosen by his counterparts across the country as president of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA), the national organization representing 50 labor force agencies in the state, as well as the territories of DC and the United States. These agencies provide training, employment, career and business services, in addition to administering unemployment insurance, veterans re-employment and labor market information programs. NASWA provides policy expertise, shares effective state practices, and promotes state innovation and leadership in workforce development.
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