After wondering when - or if - anyone from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry would respond to the growing cries the unemployed, jobless readers got a twofer this week.
First, Labor secretary Julia K. Hearthway penned a defensive letter-to-the-editor blaming President Obama and former Gov. Ed Rendell for the nonstop busy signals and inexplicable denials Pennsylvanians encounter when they try to connect with the unemployment system.
Here is the truth about the state's unemployment compensation system, she wrote. The recession, $30 million in funding cuts from the Obama administration, and the Rendell administration's failed unemployment compensation policies left us with a mess. These failed policies resulted in even more calls to resolve hastily and erroneously processed claims.
Then, throughout the day Wednesday, unemployed readers found this quasi-apologetic email from the state in their inboxes:
The UC program has been experiencing higher than normal claim volume for the past several weeks. As a result of this dramatic increase, the telephone line capacity in our UC service centers has been unable to handle incoming calls as efficiently as we would like. We are continually monitoring our systems in order to ensure that all services are operating properly and effectively. However, some callers have experienced busy signals for significant periods of time.
Before calling the service center to check on the status of a benefit payment or to see if the funds have been deposited to your debit card or bank account, we encourage you to use the Internet (www.uc.pa.gov) or call PAT (Pennsylvania Teleclaims, 888-255-4728) to learn if the payment has been issued. You can also use the Internet and PAT to file your biweekly claim and to know when to file your next biweekly claim for benefits.
If you still need to contact the service center, please do so later in the day and later in the week if possible as the call volume decreases during this time. Service center hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Exasperated citizens hoping to hit "reply" and find a human willing to jump start stalled claims were immediately disabused of their dream. On the top of the email in italics, yet another roadblock:
Inquiries made to this account will not be answered.
-- Monica Yant Kinney