EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Some are calling it Unemployment Compensation Frustration. People from across our region saying they’re not receiving their unemployment compensation and they can’t get answers from the state as to what is going on.
Just about every day people from across our region contact the I-team expressing their frustrations and asking us to look into the situation, and here’s what we found.
“It’s just so frustrating and then when you try to contact them there’s no way to contact someone,” said Debbie, frustrated with the State Unemployment Compensation System.
Debbie and Tom from Luzerne County say all they want is the money the state rightfully owes them. Especially, Tom, he was laid off in December and hasn’t seen a penny in unemployment compensation.
“Well, we were kind of warned this was going to happen because previously I heard a lot of people having the same problems. I haven’t heard of any solutions,” Tom explained.
The couple says the money would come in handy because they live on a fixed income.
“At night I lay in bed thinking you know maybe today, maybe today. I get up in the morning check the checking account there’s no money in there,” said Debbie.
“The system seems like it’s broken. It’s been broken for quite a while. It really really hurts the people who are trying to work,” Tom said.
Years ago, people could go to the Unemployment Office, a brick-and-mortar location in their hometown, and talk face to face with someone. But that changed years ago. Now unemployment claims are handled online or on the telephone.
“It’s very frustrating. Thousands of calls have inundated our State Senate Office,” said Senator John Yudichak-14th District.
State Senator John Yudichak says he and other area lawmakers are looking into the Unemployment Compensation Issues. He has been told by officials at the Department of Labor and Industry, which oversees unemployment claims, that two factors are in play here.
First, the COVID pandemic.
“but they have been overwhelmed. Everytime we see a surge a spike like with the omicron variant you see folks going back on unemployment,” said Senator Yudichak
Secondly, the other factor is fraud concerns.
“It has bogged down the system. That hurt’s legitimate folks who have gone to work lost their jobs and now are trying to make sure they can provide for their family,” explained Senator Yudichak
A spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Industry sent us a statement which reads in part:
During normal volumes of UC claims, claimants can expect at least a 6-8 week waiting period – that is when there is no backlog. Right now, however, due to unprecedented demand for unemployment benefits because of the ongoing pandemic, L&I staff is still working through a backlog of claims. Many people receive benefits within a few weeks of filing their claim; those are most likely the claimants without eligibility issues. Their payments are received as soon as they file – there is no delay. When there are questions to resolve about a claimants’ eligibility, the wait time is typically longer. Each UC claim is handled and determined for eligibility on a case-by-case basis. When a claimant sees an “in progress” status listed on their claim, that means there is an outstanding eligibility issue that needs to be resolved.
We understand and recognize claimants’ frustration, especially those Pennsylvanians who experience a wait for the review of a legitimate claim. L&I is doing everything possible to prevent fraudsters from stealing taxpayer dollars and ensuring people get the benefits they deserve.
Over the last five months, L&I received 52,176 UC claims on average, per month. L&I’s modernized UC system was upgraded in June 2021
In June of 2021 computers were upgraded and additional staff was hired. But as we saw at the outset of the pandemic, claims are increasing once again and it is slowing the system down. But L and I officials insist they are doing their best to shorten the delays.