Thousands of New Jersey residents still without unemployment benefits

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- There are more problems plaguing the New Jersey unemployment system.

Last Friday, state labor officials trumpeted they fixed the problem and that 75,000 people would be paid weeks of back benefits.

But 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda, whose been following this story from the start, found some did get their money, but dozens are still owed thousands.

"You try not to cry, you try not to snap at people. Then you see the governor saying everything was a success. I lost it," said Stephanie Kinley, NJ resident.

Unemployed by the pandemic and trying to raise two sons alone, Kinley is emotionally drained. She's owed more than $4,000 in unemployment benefits and she's sinking deeper into debt.

"I have nine credit cards, so I have bills and I'm robbing Peter to pay Paul," said said. "I had to send my 11-year-old to live with his dad to take the stress off of me."

But last Friday, a lifeline. Just hours after we appealed to Governor Murphy and the state's labor commissioner, there was an announcement that the 75,000 New Jerseyians - the capacity of Met Life Stadium - owed benefits as far back as Christmas - would get an email inviting each to start certifying and receiving more than a month of benefits.

"They said, oh miraculously IT fixed everything, we can start giving out money this weekend, and everyone was like great and the emails started rolling in," she said.

7 On Your Side found some did. Savannah Krout got hers and so did Kristen Lopez's family.

But dozens of others still owed benefits flooded 7 On Your Side's inbox with frustrated emails. They never got the email and are still unable to get paid.

"I called 127 times in a row," said Anthony LaRose, a resident.

LaRose, featured in our first piece, was laid off due to COVID cutbacks.

He's now owed $6,186 in back benefits. He was told his case had been "escalated" and as a result he'd have to wait until March or April for benefits.

"This particular extension could be over before I see a penny of it," LaRose said.

"It's just a shame, not fair at all," said Dahiliz Sanchez, a resident.

Sanchez was already a month behind on rent, and was elated when she got the email from the state.

But the young mom tried to log on for her $3,000 in benefits this week and was met with frustration.

"A red box pops up saying your claim cannot be processed at this time, you can refile after March 27th," she said. "Why even send an email if you can't certify? It's just getting our hopes up."

"Most of us have been paying into this program their whole lives and to need it the most and not be able to get their hands on it is really despicable," LaRose said.

Neither the governor nor the Department of Labor could tell 7 On Your Side how many people are still owed back benefits, only saying it's a "small sub-set."

The DOL told us people like and Steph who never received the email must have some sort of problem specific to their case. But many frustrated recipients told us DOL reps told the systems was the problem - not their case.

As for those who couldn't certify on their regular day they try to certify during one of the open slots this Saturday or Sunday. We'll stay on top of this. NP ch 7ewn

The DOL told us people like LaRose and Kinley who never received the email must have some sort of problem specific to their case. But , frustrated recipients told us DOL representatives told them the system was the problem not their case.

As for those who couldn't certify on their regular day, they can try to certify during one of the open slots this Saturday or Sunday.

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