State Dept. of Labor & Industry plans to hire more people to handle unemployment claims

Written by on March 10, 2021

State Dept. of Labor & Industry plans to hire more people to handle unemployment claims

By Sam Dunklau / WITF

March 10, 2021

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

Months of frustrations over the Wolf Administration’s handling of unemployment claims is driving lawmakers’ questions for the Department of Labor and Industry.

Listen to the story.

Labor and Industry is the latest state agency to bear the brunt of pandemic-induced frustration.

State lawmakers say they’re angry about the estimated three months it takes to process an unemployment claim, and how long it takes for people to get through to a live agent.

One House rep even played the busy signal she got after dialing the unemployment call center.

“Unemployment compensation is our number one priority. We will not rest until all eligible people are paid their unemployment benefits,” says Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier.

Though lawmakers didn’t seem swayed by that assurance, Berrier says Labor and Industry is working to hire more unemployment specialists to handle the backlog.

State Rep. Tim O’Neal (R-Washington County) says while much of the backlog has been out of the agency’s control, his constituents are demanding better.

“It is completely unacceptable. This safety net that is supposed to be there for when a Pennsylvanian needs a hand has completely failed. Completely. Across the board,”

To date, the Department has paid just under half of the more than 5 million unemployment and pandemic assistance claims it’s received.

The department says it also will launch a modernized online benefits system this spring.

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