Unemployment Compensation issues: woman has not been paid benefits since filing in March

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The state Department of Labor and Industry says it’s doing all it can to get unemployment benefits out more efficiently, but we’re still getting a lot of complaints into our newsroom.

A local woman filed, after having to shut down her business back in March for three and a half months, and still hasn’t received any money.

According to the Department of Labor and Industry, they’re getting a better handle on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA fraud that started at the end of May, but they say it’s still causing delays on getting benefits out.

Peg Pietrak says she filed for PUA back in March. She’s back at work now, but still hasn’t seen any of her benefits from March through the beginning of July.

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

After months of this, she finally got ahold of someone Tuesday.

“And of course I had to download like 20 different documents to prove who I was and then I had to call back today and I was surprised I got through, and now I just have to wait,” said Pietrak.

We asked the Department of Labor and Industry about hiring more staff to help with calls and emails.

“We actually contracted with a third party vendor to look at our staffing. We just received the report and we’re discussing that with them, to see what’s possible. We talk to the Governor’s budget office all the time. We’re watching the federal budget,” said Jerry Oleksiak, Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry.

Pietrak said she’s been able to get by, but she’s worried about the others who are in the same boat as her. Meanwhile, a system upgrade for filing claims was set to happen this fall.

“Felt that because we were still swamped with claims because of the pandemic that it was just not a good time to do that,” said Oleksiak.

The department expects to have an update in about two weeks. There’s also a new scam the Department of Labor and Industry is warning against, in which fraudsters pose as L&I employees on the phone asking for personal information.

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