About 500 people lost their jobs in December after state Senate Republicans decided not to extend a four-year, $178 million funding stream for Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system.
Though months have now passed, questions are still swirling in the legislature about what exactly caused the current financial situation.
Labor and Industry Secretary Kathy Manderino endured many hours of testimony in back-to-back hearings this week before the L&I committees in each chamber.
She said call waiting times have skyrocketed since the cuts forced the layoffs. She wants a funding stream reinstated so she can hire back employees and continue modernizing the system.
But Republicans say there are questions about how the UC system spent state money during the past four years—particularly because planned infrastructure improvements haven’t happened.
Republican Representative Robert Kauffman, of Franklin County, heads the House Labor and Industry Committee. He suggested the UC system’s money has been mismanaged.
“I have to say, personally, I expected a whole lot more out of the 180 million dollars that was allocated in 2013 than what we have to show for it,” he told Manderino.
The L&I Secretary strongly denied any mismanagement. “I have every confidence in every level of leadership at the unemployment compensation part of my department,” she said.
At lawmakers’ request, the state Auditor General is currently investigating the program—in part because of errors that lost the state about $20 million in federal funding under the previous administration.
The GOP has indicated they won’t make a funding decision until the report’s ready, sometime in April.
Manderino said her department is cooperating fully with the audit, and noted that she’s looking forward to the results as much as the Republicans are.