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Phone Issues Affect Pennsylvania Unemployment Claims

Updated : August 4th, 2020

Jobless Pennsylvanians had a tough time filing claims with the state in fall 2012 due to a $30 million fall in federal funding, out of date technology and possible sabotage, the Corbett administration said.

But alterations have been made, state Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway told a joint House and Senate panel.

“We feel the phone system is largely fixed at this point. And I feel that we’ve turned a corner on some of these issues,” Hearthway told the joint labor and industry committee.

Not everyone agreed.

An official of Community Legal Services, which offers free lawful support to low-income Philadelphia residents, said in written statement that it’s still taking too long for lay-offs to get the aid they need.

According to Sharon Dietrich, managing director of the organization, a paralegal tested the system earlier in January and experienced wait times that ranged from 48 minutes to four hours. And sometimes, Dietrich said, the paralegal couldn’t get through at all.

“A significant problem … is that calls from cell phones fare particularly poorly. For instance, she called from a land line and a cell phone at the same time. The land line call got through in one hour and six minutes. The cell phone call took three hours and 57 minutes,” Dietrich said in her statement.

Hearthway said the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry bought a new phone system on October 23. It restored what she called the “antiquated” technology that had been employed since the state’s call centers were established in the late 1990s. Still, she said, the change was not as smooth as expected.

“I anticipated glitches; there were more than just glitches with that phone system, which made the situation worse than it otherwise would have been,” Hearthway said.

The labor/industry secretary also said an investigation is under way to decide if someone tried to hack into the system to make it almost impossible for anybody to get through to the call centers.

“The numbers are astronomical, unprecedented. There are some things that look very suspicious,” she said. “State police are investigating certain aspects of this: whether there was any intentional sabotage of the system or not, whether there were computer programs that were designed to have that kind of rapid redialing system.”

All funding for Pennsylvania’s administration of unemployment compensation programs comes from the federal government, Hearthway said. As the number of unwaged claims dropped considerably from January 2011 to September 2012, Washington paid the state $155 million in fiscal 2012-13, which is $30 million less than it collected the year before.

Hearthway said the commonwealth could see another $10 million stripped from its budget because less people keep on seeking unemployment benefits.

She said January is the department’s busiest month for jobless claims and the complaints were down from last year’s rate.

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  1. I was denied benefits in November of 2019 for failing a drug test but was never sent a letter to appeal the decision, and I was disqualified for 52 weeks unknowingly. Since than I’ve worked through a company and independently since then and during the time the pandemic started, and soon after due to covid-19 I had to stop all employment. Since April 29 I have not been able to work or receive pua unemployment beacaue of my past claim. But I have file my certification every week since is ther any way I will be able to compensate through the government funds under the pandemic unemployment funds. I need help I’m losing everything

    1. Valeria,

      I can understand your situation. There will be a delay considering the number of applications that are being processed.Please continue chasing regularly.

  2. Are many Oregonians losing snap, tanf, housing services from them receiving stimulus or pandemic unemployment aid? Or is there a safety net in the Oregon Administrative rules?

  3. We are starving in florida and need the extra $300-$600 per week extra. Not everyone is getting $250 a week!!!, this is madness and unexceptab.

  4. Wanted to know how i can change my tax status. UI is taking out tax. I need it stopped due to lack of money. Cant find how to cancel please advice.

  5. How do I check to see if my ssn number was used illicitly to get benefits. I am retired and dont want my ss number used illegally

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