Pa. unemployment system: progress, but problems persist
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system now includes multi-factor authentication (MFA) previously recommended by cybersecurity experts, and claimants could start learning how to access free credit monitoring right from the start. next week.
Meanwhile, the number of new fraud cases has dropped.
That’s the good news, expressed to abc27 News in a statement Thursday from the Department of Labor and Industry and to members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly Budget Committee Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry , Jennifer Berrier.
The bad news? Some 47,000 claims remain unresolved, and phone wait times to speak to an agent are in some cases longer now than a few months ago, not shorter, situations that Berrier blames on a combination of seasonality of claims (more seasonal workers claim benefits this time of year than at other times of year) and on the state’s inability to use contract workers and borrow workers from other other state departments since the end of federal pandemic assistance in September.
Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for abc27 newsletters here.
Berrier noted that 2021 was still the department’s second busiest year for new unemployment compensation claims, although 2020 was much busier.
“We answered the same number of calls in 2021 as we did in 2020,” said state Rep. Natalie Mihalek, an Allegheny County Republican, describing the calls lawmakers say they are receiving from voters. “The unemployment rate is going down, but we are still burdened with all those people who cannot get services through the Ministry of Labor and Industry.”
Pennsylvanians who had previously contacted abc27 News about issues, reached Thursday, described mixed experiences since their first complaints. A man said L&I solved his problem completely: he received a paper check, then started receiving direct deposit payments without a hitch, while looking for a job. One woman said a staff member from the department contacted her and tried to help her, but she had yet to receive the money she was owed.
Earlier this week, the department began requiring job seekers to set up an MFA – for example, providing a cell phone number to receive codes, via text, which must then be entered on the system web portal before sensitive transactions (such as direct change -deposit banking information) can be completed. And the Wolf administration announced that Pennsylvania was one of three states, plus Washington, DC, to share $20 million in initial federal funding to improve access to unemployment benefits.