PITTSBURGH — There are more than one million Pennsylvanians on unemployment right now.
The biggest issue as we head toward the end of 2020 is for those who have already exhausted their 26 weeks of state unemployment. They got an extension of benefits, funded through the federal CARES Act, but that runs out Dec. 31 -- with new funding still in limbo.
While Congress is still working on a COVID-19 relief bill, the Pa. Department of Labor’s new acting secretary, Jennifer Barrier, urged federal lawmakers to extend federal unemployment programs.
“Unless Congress passes an extension, nearly 500,000 Pennsylvania’s will abruptly lose benefit payments when PUA and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation ends at the end of the month,” said Barrier.
During the state’s weekly unemployment briefing, the head of Human Services reminded people that they can apply for other public assistance programs if they are struggling, even though many are not applying.
The state said a survey found many people don’t want assistance or realize they can qualify for it -- even if it’s short term.
With COVID-19 cases spiking and the governor holding out the possibility of another lockdown, 11 Investigates asked what someone should do if new restrictions should force them out of work again.
“If an individual does have an open claim or a claim that was filed within the last year, then they should reopen it if they’re unemployed again,” said Susan Dickinson, policy director of Pa. Unemployment Compensation Benefits.
Unemployment claims are good for one year. And if you exhaust those, you do have options.
First, a federal program that provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits, but you must be unemployed and must apply by Dec. 26.
Another option is the state “extended benefits” program, but it is tied to the unemployment rate.
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