After an NJ.com investigation found that state government agencies aren’t answering the phone when people call for help, Senator Jon Bramnick and Senator Anthony M. Bucco said it’s time for the Legislature to pass a bill that would help fix the problem.
“The press investigation confirms what we’re hearing from constituents that nobody is answering the phone at state agencies,” said Bramnick (R-21). “If you’re having trouble with unemployment or getting a driver’s license, it’s a huge problem that you can’t call and talk to somebody. It’s more proof that the Legislature needs to pass our bill to create a Consumer Czar to call government entities at the State, county, and local levels to determine who’s reachable. It’ll be harder for these agencies to say everything is great when we have monthly reports showing that people can’t get through.”
NJ.com reported today that they made 150 calls at different times over ten days to five essential state helplines.
Not a single call over the ten days got through to a live person at the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), the Department of Labor’s unemployment line, or the Treasury Department’s ANCHOR hotline.
Bramnick and Bucco’s legislation, S-2430, establishes the independent State Office of the Consumer in the Legislative Branch of State Government.
The Office of the Consumer will be responsible for conducting routine, periodic, and random phone call assessments of local government, school district, and State offices and the offices of regulated health insurance companies by calling those offices to determine the responsiveness and accessibility of the office.
The office will also be responsible for periodic assessments of the websites of local government, school district, and State offices and the offices of regulated health insurance companies and by assessing the user-friendliness of the websites.
The director will make monthly reports to the Legislature and the Governor that include the frequency and ease of reaching a live person to speak to when calling offices and the ease of finding information and user-friendliness of the websites visited during the reporting period.
“How is the Department of Labor still unreachable when the unemployment rate is near its historic low?” asked Bucco (R-25). “The Murphy administration can’t keep hiding behind the pandemic to say they’re overwhelmed. At a certain point, the administration will have to recognize that it doesn’t have the right staffing in place to serve people. Our legislation will help identify with data where the problems are across all levels of government so we can recommend fixes. Passing our bill is the first step in making sure New Jerseyans get the help they need in a timely manner.”