NJ Senator Sponsors Bill Requiring Department Of Labor To Assign Claims Handlers To Legislative Offices

Despite promising economic news, unemployment is still higher than it was a year ago, but help could be on the way for people in New Jersey who have been trying to get assistance and keep hitting a brick wall; CBS2's Jessica Layton reports.

Video Transcript

- Despite promising economic news, unemployment is still higher than a year ago. But help could be on the way for people in New Jersey who have been trying to get assistance, but keep hitting a brick wall. Here's CBS 2's Jessica Layton.

TARA CRUSER: I've never been unemployed in my life ever. It feels bad.

JESSICA LAYTON: These are the tears of a mother whose feeling of self-worth is sadly running out.

TARA CRUSER: I just feel hopeless.

JESSICA LAYTON: One of thousands who lost her job during the pandemic waiting for a check from the New Jersey Department of Labor. Tara Cruser is still hitting roadblocks in the journey to get some answers on this unexplained error message from when she filed a claim.

TARA CRUSER: And I'm trying to be positive and all that, but, man, it's-- it's just-- just at least tell us. You know what I mean, Jess?

TOMMY COLEMAN: There was a fear of being evicted then. And then also, I didn't eat for about, like, two weeks in the first two weeks of December.

JESSICA LAYTON: Tommy Coleman admits being an independent contractor, his claim is complicated. He was promised a call back at the end of last year.

TOMMY COLEMAN: To this day, nobody has contacted me. And I don't have the amount of time to wait the way I did before.

JESSICA LAYTON: Granted, the volume of people the Department of Labor is trying to help is unprecedented, and it has paid out more than $25 billion in benefits since last March. But the criticism that the office is unresponsive has been one of the biggest complaints since the pandemic began.

NICK SCUTARI: They're desperate. They have nowhere else to turn.

JESSICA LAYTON: Senator Nick Scutari says his office is inundated with phone calls pleading for help every day. He's sponsoring a bill that would require the DoL to assign claims handlers to legislative offices so his staff can help those constituents who feel ignored.

NICK SCUTARI: People are still being stonewalled, not being able to get the service that our taxpayers require and deserve.

JESSICA LAYTON: So what does the state say? We've tried emailing and calling.

We have been trying to get some answers from the Department of Labor for several days.

To no avail. That lack of communication is precisely the problem for so many people.

TOMMY COLEMAN: I would like them to know that this has been the most difficult process I've ever been involved in.

JESSICA LAYTON: What do you say to them?

TARA CRUSER: Don't BS me. Tell me the truth. Just give me a phone call.

JESSICA LAYTON: Jessica Layton, "CBS 2 News."