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Lawmakers calling for immediate changes to Pennsylvania’s unemployment system

PITTSBURGH — People across our state are expressing anger and frustration about the unemployment compensation in Pennsylvania, saying the system is broken and inefficient.

State lawmakers agree and they're calling for immediate changes and answers.

Two Pennsylvania Senate committees discussed Tuesday the issues plaguing the unemployment system, questioning the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry secretary.

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There have been a record 1.7 million claims and staffing had previously been slashed because of prior low unemployment numbers, according to the secretary.

The state’s 40-year-old unemployment system is exacerbating the challenges.

“Please! Actually take care of the people that actually been started this like months ago. You know what I’m saying? People are hurt out here. There shouldn’t be people in the food banks,” Pittsburgh resident Michael Belt told Channel 11.

The Department of Labor and Industry said there are now 900 people taking calls and helping people file claims. However, state lawmakers said it’s too little too late.

"Who will be held accountable so at least the unemployed of Pennsylvania still waiting for a payment can know their current suffering will lead to a better functioning department in the future?," Sen. John DiSanto (R-15) asked.

“I will be held accountable,” Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak responded. “We are fully ready to do what we need to do to meet the needs of our citizens. Am I frustrated? Yes, I’m frustrated. I have family members who are waiting. I have relatives that are. I get it. We get it.”

Oleksiak said around 70% of people who have filed claims have received their checks.

More staff members have been hired to handle claims as well.

However, some are still saying they can’t even get through to a person to help them when they call for assistance.

The department says the unemployment computer system is set to be upgraded this fall.