Coronavirus Unemployment: Answers from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor

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PITTSBURGH — Since the recent closure of non-essential businesses, Channel 11 viewers have had questions about receiving unemployment benefits.

The PA Department of Labor said Friday that unemployment numbers for February remained unchanged at 4.7% but they could not say how many Pennsylvanians filed for assistance since the COVID-19 closures.

“The U.S. Department of Labor (US DOL) advised the states on March 19, 2020, that detailed UC claim numbers are embargoed until the US DOL releases the data on Thursday, March 26.”

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The Department of Labor and Industry said they will provide that data at that time.

Have questions about the spread of the coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

As for what assistance is available to people -- We asked the questions you’ve asked us.

  • What happens to claims that were pending or just filed before the non-essential shut downs?

Applications continue to be processed as quickly as possible. Filing claims online at www.uc.pa.gov is the quickest and easiest way to submit an application for UC benefits. We strongly urge any worker impacted by COVID-19 to file online.

  • If someone applies for benefits now because of coronavirus, but then end up losing their job later in the year - will this time now count against their 6 months’ time frame?

If an individual has otherwise met the eligibility requirements for unemployment compensation, he or she can collect benefits for a maximum amount of 26 weeks. At this time, we are not able to file time extensions for benefits. We will continue to review the federal guidelines as this situation continues to evolve.

  • Will they suspend the waiting week period when people signup for unemployment?

The waiting week, as well as the work search and registration requirements, have been temporarily suspended to expedite claims filings.

  • Part of the requirement to receive UC in PA is that you look for work each week. That is impossible if businesses are closed and/or not hiring due to financial losses. Will this requirement be suspended too?

Yes. In order to help expedite the processing of claims, that requirement was suspended earlier this week.

  • Are there issues with signing up online for benefits? Some viewers have said they can't complete the application and having issues using the online system and don't know who they can call?

Due to the very large volume of claims being filed and questions from claimants, we are urging all claimants to file online at www.uc.pa.gov. The answers to many COVID-19 UC questions are available in an employee/employer FAQ document. If you’re not seeing the answer you need in the FAQ, please email your question to uchelp@pa.gov.

  • What about those that have gotten jobs but have to wait to start now because Coronavirus. Do they still get unemployment?

This is a valid separation and they should be eligible to apply for UC benefits.

  • What about those whose benefits ran out now and can’t get an extension?

After their benefit year ends (one year after they opened the claim) they can re-apply. However, if they have not worked in that entire year, they will not be eligible.

Now we know that some people are have questions about being furloughed and their healthcare plans like if they will continue? We are working on getting those answers as well. Check back for an update.