N.J. panel pushes measure to resolve workers’ benefits cases more quickly

A New Jersey Senate committee has backed a bill to speed up the process of deciding appeals when residents are denied unemployment insurance benefits.

Sponsors of the measure say the months it’s been taking to rule on an appeal is far too long for out-of-work residents.

New Jersey Labor Department officials say they are reducing the backlog of appeals but aren’t certain just when they’ll meet the federal standard for resolving cases within 45 days.

“We’re hopeful that we can do that in a reasonably short period of time, but I would not hazard a guess right now as to when that might be,” said Fred Zavaglia, chief of staff at the state Labor Department.

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A dozen additional workers hired to handle the appeals should be on job by the end of the week, he said.

Sen. Dick Codey says the state hasn’t moved quickly enough.

“When the federal government is paying the money to hire these people, get their butts in here, get them qualified, get these claims resolved, and get some money into the hands of the people who are struggling,” said Codey, D-Essex.

The legislation would make the state pay a claimant’s unemployment benefits if an appeal is not decided within 60 days. The money would have to be paid repaid to the state if the claim proves fraudulent.

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