HARRISBURG (KDKA) – Busy signals, unanswered emails and zero funds. Viewers continue to call the KDKA News desk with questions and concerns about their unemployment claims.

We now know more than 1.65 million people across the state of Pennsylvania filed claims during the past six weeks alone.

KDKA’s Meghan Schiller had the chance to talk to two key leaders: Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and the Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak.

Secretary Oleksiak said Monday that the department is offering overtime to the employees and they’re working weekends to keep up with the claim volume.

“We went from 40,000 in the three weeks before the virus to over a million,” said Oleksiak. “And now we’re at 1.65 million people – within a month- five weeks. It’s something we didn’t have time to gear up for.”

Our state just entered week seven of Governor Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order and Dina Raubaugh doesn’t know how far her patience can stretch.

“I am at a million on the frustration level. I am nowhere in the process,” said Raubaugh.

She’s a single mom from Mt. Washington and feels like she did everything correctly online, but still has yet to receive a check.

“I check my claim status, it says there’s an issue with your claim.”

Raubaugh said she calls the number provided and “it is endlessly busy.”


Some people successfully navigated the online benefits system, but many did not.

Secretary Oleksiak pointed out some positive news Monday: the office successfully answered 95,000 calls using artificial intelligence and the office hired 100 new employees that will begin training in May

“We are getting to you. We want to get to you. We are doing what we can,” said Oleksiak.

Still, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale tells KDKA that his team highlighted these glaring issues in the system back in 2017.

“You don’t want to be the one that is yelling at the mountain top ‘I told you so’ and obviously no one knew it was going to be a pandemic, but we did say and I did say at that press conference — ‘God help us’ in the next recession, because our system can’t handle it.”

Auditor General DePasquale’s 61 page audit said the state needed to funnel millions to fix the online benefits system — a system his audit described as “held together with bubble gum and rubber bands.”

“An ancient computer system that just wasn’t prepared for the modern world and handling what would be even during normal times the regular paperwork,” said DePasquale.

Secretary Oleksiak said Monday the department was already in the process of modernizing the online benefits system prior to the pandemic, and said the new system will launch in October.

Meghan Schiller