In this update: 1) If you’re waiting for a call from an NJDOL agent; 2) If you’ve applied successfully but haven’t gotten paid; 3) If your work-sharing furloughs have ended; 4) Everything you need to know about setting up direct deposit; and 5) The union’s work-sharing loan program.
We’re writing with an update on the work-sharing program. Many participants successfully applied for unemployment weeks ago, and most have begun receiving payments. But far too many of you have been stuck in a waiting game that has gone on for weeks.
But yesterday, we got the first real sign of progress in around a month. Over 100 faculty participants who have been waiting to speak to an NJDOL agent because they don’t have a New Jersey state ID and have to apply by phone started getting phone calls. A smaller number of faculty need to get a phone call because they ran into persistent error messages in the online application—we’re hoping calls to them start today, if they haven’t already.
This leaves a larger group of more than 300 work-sharing participants whose applications were approved but who still have not gotten any payments. We have been pressing NJDOL to clear up this problem, too (which shouldn’t require a phone call). We won’t know if they did until next week, but they have assured us that they are allocating additional staff to move our faculty through the process.
This has been incredibly frustrating for us, and we know it’s worse for anyone stuck in these situations. We offered work-sharing in the fiscal emergency negotiations so we could achieve our people-centered priorities. But the burdens of a badly broken unemployment system have fallen on too many of you, and for that, we apologize. We’re so appreciative of all of you who have been patient as you endure this challenging process. Our union staff has been working hard to answer your questions and help you navigate the system. We’ll all keep working until everyone is paid what they are owed.
Below, we have specific information for people experiencing different problems with work-sharing. We thank you for your patience as we do everything we can to resolve these issues.
1. If You’re Waiting for a Call from an NJDOL Agent
NJDOL has had most of your names and phone numbers for nearly four weeks (compiled from the Google forms you filled out), but as far as we know, the first calls to anyone on our lists—aside from a small number of faculty who were known victims of unemployment fraud—started yesterday.
We expect these phone calls to continue today, possibly during the weekend, and into next week if necessary. So if you’re still waiting to be called, we’ll repeat the advice we’ve given you before: Watch for any call to the number(s) you put down in the Google form and pick up if you possibly can. Remember that the calls will come from a number and name that won’t be familiar to you (watch for these two numbers especially: 732-761-2020 and 201-601-4100).
You should answer the agent’s questions and ignore any misinformation they might tell you, including needing to certify (we’re glad to report that the agents who spoke to our faculty yesterday were well informed about our work-sharing program). The conversation usually ends with the agent telling you what to expect next (and how to set up direct deposit—see our advice in section four below).
2. If You’ve Applied Successfully but Haven’t Gotten Paid
We were asked by NJDOL to provide a spreadsheet of work-sharing participants facing this problem, so we asked you to fill out a different Google form two weeks ago (please add your name if you are in this situation and didn’t fill out the form before).
We submitted a list compiled from that form to NJDOL over a week ago and were told that your cases would be addressed. Apparently that didn’t happen last week, or at least not in time for payments to come this week. We are hopeful that payments may start early next week, but now that we have the department’s attention, we will keep pressing until everyone starts getting what is due to them.
Many of you have asked if there is anything you can do individually to speed up the process, but unfortunately, we don’t know of any other way to address this problem. NJDOL needs to look into your cases, figure out why payments have been delayed, and get them started.
A reminder: You may be asked by an NJDOL agent or in an NJDOL form to certify for continued benefits. Do not certify, no matter what you’re told. People who are fully unemployed need to certify that they are still out of work and actively seeking employment, but that does NOT apply to us. Certifying will only delay payments even further.
An important note to anyone who also experienced problems setting up direct deposit: many of you who had to apply by phone wrote in the Google form that you ran into difficulties with direct deposit. We weren’t able to respond individually to your questions on the form, but we have some important information in section four below about setting up direct deposit.
3. If Your Work-Sharing Furloughs Have Ended
Some work-sharing participants left the program in late May because they get a summer salary for teaching Summer Session classes or for research from external grants. You don’t have to contact NJDOL to tell them you are done with work-sharing. University Human Resources is responsible for making sure that there are no further furlough reductions in your paychecks and NJDOL stops unemployment payments (at five weeks’ worth of payments for those teaching Summer Session and six weeks’ worth for those doing research). If you discover a problem with your paycheck or unemployment payments, email us at [email protected].
4. Everything You Need to Know about Selecting Direct Deposit
Anyone who applied online for unemployment payments got a chance to designate direct deposit as their preferred method of payment (the default payment method if you don’t set up direct deposit is a debit card mailed to you, which will have new payments loaded onto it each week). But if you had to talk to an NJDOL agent to get your application approved, you have to follow these instructions to select direct deposit.
It’s very easy to run into error messages with this system, because the instructions are bizarrely complicated and fussy. But we think that everyone who has followed them has ultimately been able to set up direct deposit (even if it took a couple tries). Here are some things to keep in mind so you don’t get tripped up:
- Use the “Step 2 for Automated Voice Response System: Creating a PIN” rather than the online instructions referred to on the NJDOL website (so many people ended up with error messages using the online system for creating a PIN that we deleted those instructions from our site—definitely use the phone system).
- Check to see what day you can follow Step 2 based on your Social Security number (on Monday, call if your SSN ends in an odd number; on Tuesday, call if your SSN ends in an even number; on Wednesday through Friday, anyone can call).
- Call the phone system during business hours (9 a.m.–3:30 p.m.)
- After you create your PIN, hang up the call; don’t pay any attention to anything else that gets said (including a prompt that you have to speak to an agent) or answer any questions about certifying.
- Wait until the next day before using the newly created PIN to go on to Step 3 (this is very important; the NJDOL system needs time to update information throughout the system).
- If you’re sure you followed all the instructions and still got an error message in setting up a new account, try the instructions for Step 3 using a different browser and/or computer (Google Chrome appears to work well).
We know some of you have tried repeatedly to set up direct deposit, but our first advice to anyone who brings us this problem—frustrating though it may be to hear—is to try again from the beginning of the instructions. We really do think that everyone who followed them has eventually succeeded in setting up direct deposit.
5. The Union’s Work-Sharing Loan Program
If you’re among those who haven’t gotten payments yet, the furlough reductions in three paychecks may be causing financial problems. Please consider the union’s Work-Sharing Loan Program. The loan program requires you to fill out a simple Google form to start the process. Please email us at [email protected] if you would like access to the form.
The Loan Committee will review the application for approval, and if necessary, we will reach out to you for more information. The loan amount would be a paycheck completion sum to recover the 10 percent of your paycheck missing due to furloughs. Once approved, we’ll send over our loan agreement and rules, and we can work together on getting your funds to you as quickly as possible (within about a day of being approved).
We know that no one wants to fill out even more applications, but the union is in a position to help if you need it, and we guarantee that the process will be FAR simpler than the NJDOL system.
We have been very frustrated by the lack of progress for those of you who are stuck somewhere short of receiving unemployment payments. We promise you that, no matter what, we will keep working on this until the problems are fixed and all of you are receiving payments.
Todd and Becky
P.S. Please sign a petition in support of our postdoc colleagues who are still fighting for a living-wage contract nearly two years after the last one expired. Send a message to Rutgers to treat these valuable members of our community with respect, dignity, and equity.
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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