WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) The COVID-19 pandemic continues to send shock waves through the national and local economy. State labor and industry officials say unemployment claims are skyrocketing to levels that haven’t been seen since the great recession more than a decade ago. All of this is adding up to major problems for people trying to file for unemployment compensation.
The numbers are staggering… consider this. According to the state Department of Labor and Industry in an average week before the COVID-19 pandemic, around 13,000 Pennsylvanians would apply for unemployment compensation each week. In the last three weeks, that number spiked to nearly 400,000 claims filed each week. That has led to backlogs and big delays in getting people the money they need to pay their bills.
“When you think of a million claims compared to 100 intake officers at L&I it’s nearly impossible… so the system has been overwhelmed,” said State Senator John Yudichak (I) 14th district.
And it will likely get worse unless action is taken sooner rather than later. So says State Senator John Yudichak. There are reports that people calling Labor and Industry are waiting on hold for several hours, if they can even get through in the first place.
Yudichak advises people,
“What we are asking folks if they want a response, if they want to make an inquiry use the email system.”
Yudichak says that has thus far provided a quicker response for people. Now, Labor and Industry officials are trying to hire more staff.
“So they are bringing back people who retired recently from the department to bring them back to help quickly turn around these applications so that people can collect. So they aren’t waiting endlessly for this,” said State Rep. Aaron Kaufer (R) 120th district.
And as a result of the recently passed federal rescue legislation, unemployment compensation is available to business owners that don’t pay into the unemployment fund.
“Self employed or independent contractors they should not be filing under normal unemployment compensation system. There will be a separate system for pandemic unemployed assistance that will be up and running soon, hopefully this week,” said Kaufer.