The number of people losing their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic continues to climb – 2.1 million Americans applied for jobless benefits in the last week.
In Pennsylvania, people are still having trouble getting their benefits. In a town hall Thursday, officials with the Pa. Labor and Industry Department addressed several pressing issues regarding staffing, unemployment payments and fraud.
“Unfortunately, there are frustrations. There are delays; it’s just the overwhelming numbers we’re working with,” said Jerry Oleksiak, secretary of the department.
The first problem, Oleksiak said, stems from having enough people to process the claims as the state went from staffing for record-low unemployment to surpassing the all-time record for unemployment claims in the three weeks after COVID-19 popped up.
The state is currently at 2.3 million claims.
Oleksiak said the department beefed up its numbers – going from 770 employees to nearly 1,400 – by pulling 100 people out of retirement and shifting 300 from other state agencies to fill the gaps.
“We have done all we can to improve our customer service. Our unemployment compensation staff has worked over 90,000 overtime hours,” he said.
Another issue Pa. officials said every U.S. state is facing has to do with fraud, specifically those filing under pandemic unemployment assistance.
While the state investigates stolen identity cases, everyone who is filing on a PUA will now be getting paper checks, at least temporarily.
Another question brought up involved overpayment, especially with PPP loans.
State officials said your best bet is to try to use its website as the fastest way to get help. If you don’t have access to the internet and need to call, officials said try at the end of the week when call volume is lower.
Below is a statement from state officials regarding cases of PUA scams and what you can do:
"Recently attempted COVID-19 PUA scams were uncovered here in Pennsylvania. Our anti-fraud division has done a thorough job of matching the suspect claims against IP addresses, routing numbers, and accounts known or suspected to be part of this scam in other states. In an effort to protect against fraudulent activity, and like many other states, we are flagging payments on these suspect claims pending an investigation. If claimants are seeing “Investigation Case, Special Project” it means the department is reviewing their claim.
Legitimate claimants who don’t receive a PUA payment this week should phone, 855-284-8545 (M-F, 8 AM to 3 PM) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The links below provide additional information on how to report suspected UC fraud or how to avoid scams."
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