HARRISBURG (KDKA) – It’s been weeks since hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians have received unemployment checks.
“My husband’s disabled and we only get one check a month and it only goes so far,” Martie Bachman said.READ MORE: 'The Neighborhood Jewel': Community Fights To Save St. Philip School In Crafton From Closing
After being laid off from her accounting job last April, Martie Bachman started collecting unemployment, but her benefits ended in November and she hasn’t gotten a check since, leaving her to rely on the kindness of others.
“It’s been hard but we do have good friends and there are food pantries,” she said.
Bachman re-applied and got approved for an extension of unemployment benefits under one of three federal programs administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. But like hundreds of thousands of other Pennsylvanians, she’s still waiting as the state has struggled in recent weeks to get those checks to the people who desperately need them.
Since the start of the pandemic, Labor and Industry has come under fire for late checks and infilled claims as the department ramped up staffing to serve more than two million new claimants. It’s also had problems with an out of date computer system, which it plans to replace after the pandemic.READ MORE: Pa. Sen. Bob Casey Sponsors Bill To Protect Children From Falling Furniture
But Republican State Senator Camera Bartolotta, who has been a frequent critic of the Wolf administration, says the latest round of delays isn’t necessarily their fault.
“There were federal programs that were held up until or after our programs had expired so they’re playing catch up right now,” she said.
Congress and the federal government did not approve an extension of the programs until the end of December, delaying the pandemic unemployment checks and an additional $300. The new programs have new verification requirements and Labor and Industry has had to update that old computer system before issuing the checks.
“They still have to go through those steps, jump through those hoops. Unfortunately, it takes a little while, but I know they’re working as hard as they can,” she said.MORE NEWS: Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh Steelers Hosting COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic At Heinz Field
There’s no definitive word on when most of these checks will be going out. Labor and Industry says it’s completing its computer updates and will be making announcements soon.