HARRISBURG (KDKA) – Over 2 million Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment compensation.
And state officials say $8.8 billion has been paid out.
But still thousands have been unable to file or connect with the state agency that is supposed to be delivering federal unemployment relief money.
Congress passed the CARES Act in late March and still the state’s Department of Labor and Industry has not been able to process all the claims for unemployment.
In fact, the state has only just recently implemented the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which provides 13 weeks of additional help for those whose unemployment ran out.
In a word or two, “It’s disastrous,” says Catherine Bakey of Belle Vernon.
A bureaucratic nightmare, say many who wrote KDKA about the state’s unemployment compensation operation.
Bakey tried telephoning the agency for help.
“It would ring and die. It would ring and go busy. It would just ring. There was no way of getting through,” she told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Monday.
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As for emails, the agency’s own site says it takes 44 days to respond.
Jake Crider of Shippensburg received his last UC check on April 4, and he’s entitled to 13 additional weeks under the federal PEUC program.
“I have not received an income or benefit payment in over a month and a half,” Crider says.
Crider blames inadequate staffing and decades-old technology.
“The software is outdated. They need to do an emergency funding,” says Crider.
But the man on the hot seat insists it’s getting better.
“There are 500 staff who have been reassigned from other agencies,” says Jerry Oleksiak, Secretary of Labor and Industry.
“We have 70 experienced retirees who are now working with us. We have 250 people who are being hired and trained going to the program. We’ve had upgrades in technology,” says the Secretary.
But the proof will be when everyone entitled to a check gets their unemployment check.