PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Governor Tom Wolf extended the stay-at-home order for 26 counties across Pennsylvania Monday afternoon, effectively keeping non-life sustaining businesses closed for another month.
More than 850,000 people filed unemployment claims since March 15, according to State Senator Jay Costa. He said he learned a piece of good news Monday morning.
“I learned this morning they’re moving 100 people from another agency and department into the unemployment compensation bureau to help handle the work flow or claims flow we’re talking about,” said state Senator Jay Costa.
He told KDKA’s Meghan Schiller that he’s encouraging constituents to reach out to his office via phone or social media with concerns or issues they’re running into while filing their claims.
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller spent the day Monday video chatting with people who are trying to file claims but only hearing a busy signal on the other end of the phone line.
“I tried to call today over 400 times,” said Zach Bruce, Hempfield Township resident.
Bruce even set his alarm early to beat others to the punch.
“I’ve been up since this morning calling back-to-back. It’s literally just a busy signal,” said Bruce.
Bruce and his girlfriend Alyssa Imbrogno said the state’s unemployment office prefers people file claims online, but say the system is not working for them. They’re starting to get worried that they will run out of savings.
“It’s telling me again to refile on the 12th of April so that’s a month already gone of no income at all,” said Bruce. “We have two daughters, one’s 3 and one’s 6 months old.”
This family is not alone. Kevin Kopnisky of Uniontown reached out to KDKA’s Meghan Schiller because he filed for unemployment in October when his company eliminated his position. He’s worried that his unemployment will run out amid the coronavirus crisis.
“My 26 weeks is about up mid-April and I did land a job with a good company, but the due to the coronavirus, he had to lay off half his company,” said Kopnisky.
He wants to know: “Will the state’s new 13-week extension apply to me?”
State Senator Jay Costa said “yes.”
“Yes, he would be able to do that going forward and also could tap into that additional $600 dollars from the federal government — I’m pretty sure of that.”
Sen. Costa said those receiving unemployment will also soon receive an additional $600 weekly benefit. He said the state legislature passed a bill last week that will remove the one week waiting period, so people can file unemployment immediately. He also said the new legislation removes the work search requirement.