Immediate and long-term plans to fix Unemployment Compensation backlog

Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Unemployment issues continue as more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians have now filed since the pandemic hit.

To date, 74 percent of claims since March 15th have been paid out in the Commonwealth. But if you’re in that 26 percent of people who haven’t been paid and can’t get ahold of someone to ask questions, state officials say more help is coming in a few days.

Right now, the email backlog for the unemployment compensation office is 38 days, but that’s still a better option of getting ahold of someone, versus phone or the live chat.

“Bringing more staff in and some of those are actually starting this week,” said Jerry Oleksiak, Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry.

Seventy former workers have already been brought on. Five hundred staff have been reassigned to help with the backlog, and soon 120 new hires will begin, with another 125 by the end of the month. There is a plan to potentially bring in more people to help beyond that.

“A long range plan for UC that we are working together with the Governor’s office, the HR office to do exactly that, and we are in that process now,” said Oleksiak.

Since mid-March, Unemployment Compensation staff have put in 47,000 hours of overtime. Right now, calls are taken from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“As we hire more staff, we get more help, we’ll possibly be able to expand the hours. That will be a fluid situation as we go on,” said Susan Dickinson, Director of Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy.

Meanwhile, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program became fully operational Thursday, but the PUA phone number won’t work until later this week.

The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, under the federal CARES Act should be up and running by mid next week.

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