Pennsylvanians feel ‘panic’ amid gap in pandemic unemployment benefits

Pennsylvanians feel ‘panic’ amid gap in pandemic unemployment benefits

PITTSBURGH — Messages have been pouring into the Channel 11 tip line about a gap in pandemic unemployment benefits.

Since Dec. 26, thousands of Pennsylvanians have not received the funds they need to get by. People we spoke with said they feel “panicked” and aren’t getting answers from the state.

“Right now, I’m just hanging on by my fingernails and I think a lot of other people are too,” said Daniel Rearick, of Pittsburgh.

Content Continues Below

Rearick is among the millions of Americans who became unemployed because of the pandemic.

“We lost our jobs through no fault of our own... and the help, it just isn’t coming,” he said.

In recent weeks, the federal government extended both the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs. More than half a million Pennsylvanians have faced a gap in receiving those benefits.

“We know many Pennsylvanians are relying on these programs and we have been doing as much work as we can to help minimize the delay,” said Jennifer Berrier, Acting Secretary of the PA Department of Labor and Industry.

Last week, the state department claimed it was waiting on the federal department to provide the new guidance needed to distribute the money. This week, state officials claim they received that guidance, however the new changes “require reprogramming of the PUA computer system” and they hope to have an “update” within a few days.

“That’s a non-answer to me,” Rearick said. “I can’t tell my landlord or my creditors ‘well the state’s gonna let me know.’”

When the matter is resolved, the state claims people in both programs will receive back pay.

“Are they going to reactivate the program after I’m already evicted? And it’s going to be too little, too late?” Rearick questioned. “I don’t know.”

State officials say in the meantime, “claimants of both programs should wait for further instructions before filing for additional weeks. Claimants enrolled in the programs prior to Dec. 26 should not file a new claim.”

Prepaid stimulus check debit cards could be mistaken for junk mail; don’t throw yours away