Groups Demand Increased Support For Unemployed — Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Parsippany Life

Comparing the embattled legislator to holiday villains like Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch, dozens of unemployed and concerned citizens gathered outside New Jersey State Representative Alex DeCroce's district office recently to protest remarks the legislator made about unemployment insurance benefits. At a recent meeting of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association DeCroce claimed to believe "that (unemployment) benefits are too good for these people."

"It's totally outrageous that Alex DeCroce is spending his holiday season schmoozing with fat cat business lobbyists while at the same time bashing the laid-off workers who are struggling to not just buy Christmas presents for their kids but put food on the table," said Jackie Cornell-Bechelli, New Jersey Citizen Action. "We need DeCroce to issue a real apology to New Jersey's laid-off workers and commit to standing up for them."

Speakers pointed out that while New Jersey's unemployment rate for November remained at a staggeringly high 9.2 percent this month, changes made by the legislature in 2010 have tightened restrictions on eligibility for benefits. Currently only 3.9 percent of New Jersey's population receives unemployment benefits. While the maximum unemployment benefit claim is $600 per month, the average check received by workers is $393 per week or $20,436 per year, and approximately 3,000 to 4,000 New Jerseyans run out of unemployment benefits every week.

DeCroce's own family finances were also highlighted at the rally. DeCroce receives a part-time salary of $49,000 per year, while his wife receives $130,000 from the Department of Community Affairs where she works as a clerk.

"Maybe Alex DeCroce and his family should leave their huge salaries behind and spend a month in our shoes before he talks about families struggling with unemployment," said Cheryl Quinio-Blodgett, iwho has been looking for work since April 2010. "I feel like it's 'A Christmas Carol' and he's asking: 'Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?'"

The rally was described as a wakeup call not just for DeCroce but all legislators that the state needs to provide for working families rather than continue cutting services on which working families rely.

"This is a bigger problem than Asm. DeCroce," said Bill Holland of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance. "For the last year the legislature has repeatedly cut benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and school lunch and breakfast programs while giving the rich a free ride. Now is the time for New Jersey's legislators to reflect on the past year and remember who they really represent."

Copyright 2011 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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