As for the limits on submitting complaints, Smith said the Labor Department had removed the cap.
“My top priority is to assist the more than 700 people in my district who have submitted claims —some as far back as March and April 2020 — but have received or heard nothing,” Smith said. “We’ve now been assured that the New Jersey Department of Labor will accept all of our cases and attempt to do a better job.”
The Labor Department denied there was ever a cap on claims and Gov. Phil Murphy
responded to his original allegation by criticizing Smith for voting against the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus law.
Smith released an email exchange earlier this week that took place Feb. 26 between a staff member and an aide to Murphy and the governor’s office.
His staffer wrote:
“As I understand it:
1. New online system starts in two weeks and we will be able to login and look at the status of cases.
2. We are submitting now our 50 most egregious cases.
3. We cannot submit any new cases for two weeks, allowing DOL to work on the 50.
4. After that, we will be able to re-submit 25 cases every other week for processing.
Can you confirm the broad strokes of this?”
And the response from the governor’s office:
“Yes that’s to the best of my understanding.”
Labor Department spokeswoman Angela Delli Santi said the emails were misconstrued. “At no time was a maximum set,” she said.
She said the agency’s staff had several conversations with lawmakers’ offices about its new case management system “to better track and resolve their referrals, while maintaining fairness to all claimants,” including procedures to let everyone learn the new system while continuing to help New Jerseyans.
“At legislative offices’ request, we have advised them on how many complex cases they could reasonably expect to be resolved in a given period of time, but that is simply a reflection of NJDOL seeking to be fair to all 134 legislative offices, state and federal,” Delli Santi said. “To describe these deliberative conversations secondhand in public is like playing the children’s game, ‘Telephone.’”
For Smith, his advocacy on behalf of constituents is one reason he continues to be re-elected, even as other House Republicans in the state lose their seats, said Ben Dworkin, director of Rowan University’s Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship.
“You don’t keep getting re-elected in a district anywhere unless you actually deliver,” Dworkin said. “His office continues to be very passionate about constituent service. It is part of why the congressman has won so many times for so long.”
NJ Advance Media reporter Sophie Nieto-Munoz contributed to this story.