Unemployment staff freeing up issues on claims, as 16% of Pennsylvanians haven’t been paid benefits since pandemic

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Phone and email backlogs and issues with your PIN are all still problems for Pennsylvanians trying to get their unemployment.

Since mid-March, 84 percent of Pennsylvanians who applied for regular unemployment benefits have been paid, but that still leaves 16 percent who are still waiting, and the frustration is mounting as so many can’t get ahold of anyone for help.

According to state officials, unemployment staff has increased by 80 percent since this pandemic hit.

“We’re able to use more of our examiners who make decisions on claims to go do that very thing,” said Susan Dickinson, Director of Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy.

Dickinson says that will free up many of the issues on claims, like Cindy Hospador’s. She was approved for unemployment back in March, has a PIN, filed the required claims, but has only received one payment.

“Now I’m in limbo. I had to ask for forbearance for the mortgage. We have enough money for food, because we had some savings, but I haven’t been able to keep up with the bills and it’s so stressful,” said Hospador.

There’s progress being made on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, under the federal CARES Act.

“We did also make strides with a lot of our PUA issues with our vendor this last week, so we’re very close. We do have a solution for opening up back weeks,” said Dickinson.

The PUA program is the one targeted by a scam, in which fraudulent checks are being issued to people who have never filed a claim. As a precaution, those who qualified received their benefit payments via paper checks, but soon debit cards will be issued by mail as well, as fraud investigations continue.

The Department of Labor and Industry is holding another public virtual town hall answering your unemployment questions this Thursday at 1 p.m. You can watch it here.

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