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DeAngelo & Gusciora Bill to Better Protect Unemployment Insurance Fund Clears Assembly

Legislation Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Reed Gusciora sponsored to better protect the state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund from fraud and ensure it’s used only by those it was created to assist – unemployed New Jerseyans – recently was advanced by the General Assembly.

“Out-of-work New Jerseyans deserve this help, and every taxpayer deserves to know the benefits system they pay into is protected as best is possible from fraud that, in the end, only costs everyone more money,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “The unemployment fund exists to help New Jerseyans get back on their feet as they find work, and it should be protected for their use and their use only. With these few steps, we can better ensure that happens.”

The legislation is based on a report from the Office of the State Auditor, which looked at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Unemployment Insurance Services program for the period of July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2011. The audit focused on benefit payments and uncovered various ways the system could be improved or updated to improve the collection of data and provide a more timely verification of wages earned and a beneficiary’s status.

Under the bill (A-2534), employers and labor organizations doing business in New Jersey would be required to report to the department the ending of employment for an employee who is laid off, furloughed, separated, granted a leave without pay or terminated from employment, including the wages paid to the employee and the number of base weeks worked by the employee during the calendar quarter in which the employment ends.

Under current law, employers and labor organizations doing business in the state are required to report certain information to the department regarding: (1) the hiring of, or contracting with, any person who works in New Jersey and to whom the employer anticipates paying earnings; (2) the re-hiring or return to work of any employee who is laid off, furloughed, separated, granted a leave without pay or terminated from employment; and (3) any other employee hired by the employer to work in New Jersey who was not previously employed by the employer; or was previously employed by the employer but has been separated from the prior employment for at least 60 consecutive days.

The law requires this information to be reported to the department within 20 days of the hiring, re-hiring, or return to work of the employee (every 15 days for employers who transmit reports electronically), and provides for reported information to be shared with state agencies operating employment security and workers’ compensation programs and with any other federal or state agency deemed appropriate by the commissioner of the Department of Human Services.

The bill expands these existing reporting requirements to mandate the reporting of similar information for employees terminated from employment.

“This bill will provide a more timely system for the reporting of wages so that those who are unemployed and eligible can receive the correct amount of benefits and those who are ineligible and abusing the system may be identified,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Ultimately, this is a matter of making sure New Jersey’s Unemployment Insurance Fund functions as it should.”

The bill establishes, in statute, that the employment information required to be reported to the department will comprise and be known as the “Employee Status Report.”

The measure passed the Assembly 52-26.