Answering calls from ticked-off Pennsylvanians taking a toll on state workers

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — In the past year, the state has proceeded 5.3 million unemployment claims, more than the previous nine years combined. It has struggled mightily to get Pennsylvanians their money — but it’s not for a lack of trying.

They’ve heard the complaints.

“I’ve just been calling all the time and emailing every day, busy all the time. You can’t get through,” one Pennsylvanian said.

They’ve heard the frustration.

“How long can you tell someone don’t worry about it well get to it … I would be crazy. Any of us would be,” Rep. Joe Ciresi (D-Montgomery) said.

They’ve heard the desperation.

“An individual who has been waiting for months who has thought about potentially harming themselves,” Rep. Kate Klunk (R-York) said.

They’ve heard it all.

“To be honest at this point we all are going through our own type of nightmare,” said Chris Good, unemployment compensation systems analyst.

Good is a claims examiner for unemployment compensations. The guy on the other end of those phone calls.

“It’s just heartbreaking to know we’re not able to help everyone right away it’s taken weeks and months whereas it used to take days before the pandemic. So it’s really weighing on everyone’s morale,” Good said.

Just before the pandemic, a system upgrade was about to roll out. They were doing 40,000 claims a week. Overnight, it went to over a million individuals.

“We literally had a claim coming in every single second. That lasted for hours,” Good said.

The mess has lasted a year. Every time Congress passes a PUA or extended benefits it falls on these folks to get it into bank accounts.

“Congress basically has a wish list of what it wants to happen and then we have to figure out how it can happen,” Good said.

Good knows people are suffering and desperately need the money. He just reminds us that there are also people desperately trying to get it to them.

“I don’t think I could handle another pandemic like this it’s really unbearable,” Good said.

There is good news. The modernized system that will make things easier for claimants and employees should be fully implemented by late spring.

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