Why New Jersey's old unemployment computer system remains a problem, frustrating applicants - Garden State Initiative


Unemployment, TRANSFORMING OUR BUSINESS CLIMATE Why New Jersey’s old unemployment computer system remains a problem, frustrating applicants

March 1, 2021


By Stacey Barchenger

When Anthony Williams called an automated phone line to get his unemployment benefits in December, the robotic voice on the other side skipped part of a question.

Williams, 64, said he assumed the system would ask the question again, but it didn’t, and instead he got a message that has frustrated thousands of people left without work during the coronavirus pandemic: He had to speak to a representative.

Getting someone on the phone took nearly a month, and six weeks later, Williams still hasn’t seen his money.

“I am so aggravated and frustrated,” the Neptune man said. “Not because I don’t have the money, but because you can’t get no one who seemingly cares at all.”

One year into the pandemic that left Williams and 1 in 3 New Jersey workers relying on financial lifelines from unemployment, the antiquated computer systems that put benefits into pockets have seen few improvements. 

Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year offers another Band-Aid that falls far short of what is needed to overhaul the system. State lawmakers are pushing a larger $50 million allocation that two bill sponsors said is a down payment with more money to come over several years, but that is not guaranteed.

In the meantime, the Murphy administration is urging the federal government to make changes that it says could ease frustrations for residents and must come before state dollars are spent.

Read the full report here.