Pennsylvania jobless claimants facing work search questions despite statewide pause


Some jobless claimants in Pennsylvania say the state’s new unemployment compensation system asks about work search activities that aren’t required until next month.

The reports come days after the Department of Labor and Industry launched the updated system.

“We are aware of the issue,” acting Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier said during a news conference Friday. “We are currently working through a fix on this, and that’s one of our top priorities right now.”

The state’s work search requirement for jobless claimants was suspended amid the pandemic. The department plans to reinstate the rule beginning July 18.

Berrier said claimants facing those questions should log off and wait for the department to fix the issue before proceeding. Answering no to the questions could trigger a denial, she said.

More than 221,000 residents have used the new system to file unemployment compensation claims this week, Berrier said. More than $115 million in payments have been sent out, so far.

“We think we are in a good place,” she said. “This has been a long stressful two-week period, but to us the hard work is worth it when we hear from individuals that they received their benefits in their bank accounts and they can pay their bills.”

Berrier said the recently terminated disaster declaration will not change the timeline for reinstating work search requirements, either. Legislative Republicans had lobbied to reinstate the policy this month as they say employers grow more desperate for workers.

The deal struck Thursday between the administration and the General Assembly ended the disaster declaration, but extended all of the COVID-19 regulatory waivers through Sept. 30. It's unclear if the work search moratorium was included.

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