PITTSBURGH — Changes are coming this week if you apply for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania. The Department of Labor and Industry is beginning the transition to a new online system.
Acting Secretary of Labor Jennifer Berrier says the state is hopeful the new system will make it easier and faster for people to access unemployment benefits, but they do expect some likely issues during the transition.
“Obviously, within the first month of going live with the new system there’s going to be some issues that are going to inherently need to be ironed out; and also our folks are going to need to get used to the system as well,” Berrier said.
Long Delays & Frustration
Butler resident Dennis Crouch was one of the thousands in the state who used the old system, and dealt with long delays and headaches to get his unemployment benefits this past year.
“Some of the wait times were like 16 hours, and then it’d drop down to four hours, and then the system would drop you off the system,” Crouch said of his experience. “It was terrible. Hit and miss. So many people were trying to get on the website. That was the most frustrating part.”
Crouch says the PA unemployment website has recently been working better, though.
“This past Sunday it was super-fast!” he said.
That old system will go offline on June 3 to make the transition. The state says anyone who has to file for benefits this week should do it no later than Wednesday, June 2.
Another change to be aware of is that the new system will move to weekly filing for unemployment, instead of bi-weekly.
The department is also reminding people that initial claims are offline, so you’re not able to open a new claim, right now. New claims can be filed again June 8 - 12. Filers will be able to back-date their claim to May 30, if they were unemployed that week.
Bracing for more problems
The Labor Department says another thing to be aware of is that the Memorial Day holiday could delay your benefits by one or two days.
Also, at the end of July, people applying for benefits will have to once again prove they are searching for work in the week before they file.
Crouch thinks that’s a good thing.
“Employers are picking up the pace with wages, so it’s an opportunity to get better pay and find something you would like,” he said.
In the meantime, Crouch says he is bracing for more technical issues during the transition.
“Have a little bit of patience and read what’s in front of you, and that’s the best way to avoid any type of frustration,” he said.