The huge, disgraceful mess surrounding filing for unemployment compensation benefits in Pennsylvania — a mess I detailed in a column last week — is showing some slight improvement, according to the state Department of Labor & Industry.
Maybe. The number of new claims is down from 31,000 two weeks ago to 21,000 last week. That's either due to a seasonal drop-off or continued failure to file claims or folks just giving up.
You'll recall the Legislature and the Wolf administration failed to provide funding for the claims process. That led to lay-offs of roughly half the state's 1,000 employees who handle claims. And that resulted in some shuttered claims call centers, constant busy signals at centers still open and frustrated, angry citizens unable to apply for benefits.
I got lots of calls and emails from folks who couldn't get through.
So here's an update. You can keep trying by phone (1-888-313-7284). And you can file a claim online through the department's website (dli.pa.gov). But while some online claims are easily processed, the vast majority, according to the department, require review and personal contact for follow-up or further information. Hence the busy signals and long delays.
Plus, because of the lay-offs, calls aren't accepted Wednesdays or Fridays to allow for needed follow-up work.
But an option is personally going to one of the state's 61 PA CareerLink job centers. You can find the one nearest you by going to CareerLink's website (pacareerlink.pa.gov) though these are job centers not UC walk-in centers. The advantage is the centers have a direct line to a UC call center that applicants can use. You're automatically connected. The disadvantage is wait time to use such a line most often extends to hours. So wait at home where you may never get through. Or wait at a call center where, I'm told, eventually you will.
As mentioned, a mess.
Finding and calling your state legislator probably won't move things much faster, but it could help remind him or her that public service includes serving the public and he or she should get in gear and work to fix this thing in a way that it won't happen again.
People who paid UC taxes and became unemployed through no fault of their own — including 521 state workers furloughed due to failures in the legislative funding process and failures spread over two administrations to upgrade the UC system — don't deserve the treatment they're getting from their government.