MORRIS COUNTY — With COVID-19 vaccination numbers increasing, coronavirus cases decreasing and indoor capacity restrictions set to be lifted on May 19, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn introduced a resolution urging the governor to reopen all Labor Department facilities to in-person services.
Labor Department offices and one-stop career centers have been closed for in-person business since last March when the first coronavirus public health emergency was issued.
“Even prior to the pandemic, the career centers have been operating with dated equipment and few caseworkers,” said Dunn (R-Morris). “The coronavirus was the unexpected crisis that made us realize that our unemployment system is inadequate, antiquated and failing to serve those most in need.”
Dunn’s resolution (AR253) also calls on the Labor Department to fully staff all public-facing offices at all times.
In March this year, Dunn visited a shuttered one-stop career center in Randolph.
“Speaking with a security guard, I learned that dozens of people come each day in hopes of receiving relief, only to be turned away,” said Dunn. “While we have all become more accustomed to virtual connectivity, this is not how I believe a bricks-and-mortar career center, a taxpayer-funded facility, should work.”
Since August 10 of last year, the state’s career centers moved all of the unemployment services online and over the phone.
“Virtual services may not be as accessible for elderly clients, low-income clients, or clients with disabilities,” added Dunn. “Additionally, there are still claimants who are being denied payments, because they cannot get in touch with someone at the Labor Department to rectify the issue. In-person services would solve a multitude of problems and promote more effective communication.”
Since last March, the state has received more than 2.1 million applications for unemployment benefits and distributed more than $28 billion to Garden State workers.