NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today pressed the Trump Administration to take additional actions to ensure workers receive unemployment insurance as quickly as possible. Over the past three weeks, nearly 577,000 New Jerseyans have filed for unemployment. 215,000 of those claims were filed last week alone.
“Over 6.6 million Americans filed an unemployment claim in the last week of March. As coronavirus continues to spread, we expect that this number will only get higher,” the senators wrote in a letter to Department of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia. “We understand that the responsibility for administering and distributing unemployment compensation traditionally falls to state workforce agencies. However, in its capacity overseeing state programs, the Department must do everything it can to assist states during this pandemic.”
The senators outlined a number of actions the administration should take to help states disburse supercharged unemployment insurance: provide technological support, assist states in meeting the requirements to receive administrative funding, expand the capacity of the Department of Labor’s verification system, issue outstanding guidance, provide flexibility and proactively reach out to state workforce agencies.
Joining Sens. Menendez and Booker on the letter were Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Schumer (D-.N.Y), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Angus King (D-Maine.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
A copy of the letter can be found below.
Dear Secretary Scalia,
In this time of national crisis, it is critical that the Department of Labor (the Department) does everything in its power to support states in administering the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program and distributing benefits. Over 6.6 million Americans filed an unemployment claim in the last week of March. As coronavirus continues to spread, we expect that this number will only get higher.
The Department and state workforce agencies have a monumental task ahead in processing these claims. But, Americans who have lost their jobs don’t have time to wait for a check. People need unemployment compensation now so that they can buy groceries, pay rent, and keep up on their bills. Without it, many Americans won’t be able to make ends meet.
We understand that the responsibility for administering and distributing unemployment compensation traditionally falls to state workforce agencies. However, in its capacity overseeing state programs, the Department must do everything it can to assist states during this pandemic. We appreciate the Department’s efforts so far, but this unprecedented situation calls for further action.
We request that the Department take the following actions to support states. Please provide a response in writing no later than April 10, 2020, explaining whether the Department has taken these actions, and if not, why the actions are not feasible:
Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter.
April 22, 2021