TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – As states look at slowly reopening, some residents are still waiting for financial relief.
Hundreds of thousands of people haven’t received unemployment checks in New Jersey.
CBS2’s Nick Caloway went to Trenton to ask the governor why.
What used to Janet McInteer’s home office is now her sewing room. She’s a single mom who was laid off from a medical device company in early April. Now she spends her days making masks to donate, and to sell.
“It doesn’t pay all my bills. But it pays a portion of my bills every week,” she said.
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McInteer is one of about 300,000 people in New Jersey who have filed for unemployment, but still haven’t received any money. She has been waiting more than five weeks.
Christopher Smith is a Lyft driver. He’s waited more than eight weeks for an unemployment check that still hasn’t arrived. All the while, the bills are piling up.
“I’ve burned through all of my life savings. At this point, I had to resort to borrowing money from a family member,” he said.
It’s an all-too-familiar tragedy: Countless New Jersey residents can’t access desperately needed money from the state’s overwhelmed unemployment office.
Caloway asked Gov. Phil Murphy about the delays at his daily press briefing. His message: Be patient.
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“New Jersey is by many measures ranked at the top of the American states plowing through the backlog, and that will mean nothing to anybody who still hasn’t gotten their benefits. We’ve been very clear about that. This is a tsunami unlike any state or country has every dealt with before. I would just say to folks, you will get every penny, including the federal piece. And I don’t blame you for being frustrated,” Murphy said.
So there’s still no relief for New Jerseyans whose livelihoods were stripped away by coronavirus. Smith calls the unemployment office hundreds of times a day, unsuccessfully.
“Most of the times it’ll be ‘beep beep beep, your call cannot be completed as dialed.’ Just the system crashing,” he said.
“I have called, I have texted, I have emailed,” McInteer said.
She says New Jersey’s unemployment system is broken.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people that have been waiting weeks to be paid. We have paid into the system for our whole lives. And we’re seeing nothing in return,” she said.
McInteer also sent two of her homemade masks to Murphy last week, along with a letter pleading for help with her unemployment claim.
She told Caloway she has not gotten a response.