PA Department of Labor & Industry Temporarily Suspends Restrictions on Access to Unemployment Compensation Benefits

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By Marc A. Scaringi, Esq.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits across the country rose 70,000 to 281,000 last week, the week of March 14, the highest figure since September 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s important to note that those figures represent a huge jump in claims but cover a period before the mass layoffs and furloughs that started this week as a result of COVID-19 the either voluntary or involuntary closure of millions of businesses across the country.

There is a tsunami of UC claims coming. Since Monday, March 17, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has received approximately 121,000 online claims for unemployment benefits. That’s over 50,000 new jobless claims in Pennsylvania each day.

We’ll talk about waivers in a moment.

Under ordinary, work-a-day circumstances, restrictions on access or prompt access to unemployment compensation (“UC”) benefits are built into the law, but today’s “work-a-day” world has become anything but ordinary, in the wake of the corona-virus (COVID-19) threat. Businesses have been asked to shut their doors, and employees despair about not receiving their regular paycheck on payday.

Fortunately, the PA Department of Labor & Industry (“L&I”) has taken steps to put some wage replacement benefits into the bank accounts of thousands of Pennsylvanians impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep up with the following measures, as well as others designed to help effectively “out of work” employees, you can use this link: https://www.uc.pa.gov/COVID-19/Pages/UC-COVID19-FAQs.aspx.

Two of the most helpful restrictions blocking prompt or needed access have been a one-week waiting period following the first day of unemployment; and a requirement that entitlement to UC must be accompanied by an active search and registration for new employment. However, effective March 16, 2020:

  • Work Search and Work Registration requirements have been temporarily waived for all UC claimants.
  • The Waiting Week requirement has also been temporarily waived. This means that new claimants who are approved for UC benefits will receive payment for their first week of unemployment.

You may be eligible for Unemployment Compensation if:

  • Your employer temporarily closes or goes out of business because of COVID-19
  • Your employer reduces your hours because of COVID-19
  • You have been told not to work because your employer feels you might get or spread COVID-19
  • You have been told to quarantine or self-isolate or live/work in a county under government-recommended mitigation efforts

According to the Department of Labor and Industry, if approved, your first benefit payment should arrive within four weeks of filing.

The quickest way to file a claim for UC benefits is online at uc.pa.gov

Stay tuned to our website for regular updates in the fluid working world, in the wake of efforts to slow down and eventually stop the spread of this life-threatening disease.

If you have any questions about UC benefits, or if your claim is denied, do not hesitate to contact the Employment Law attorneys at Scaringi Law at 717-657-7770 or Scaringilaw.com. We are ready, willing and able to help you receive the UC benefits you deserve.

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