More than half a million Pennsylvanians set to lose unemployment benefits

A person wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus walks past stuttered businesses in Philadelphia, Thursday, May 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A person wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus walks past stuttered businesses in Philadelphia, Thursday, May 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Updated Dec. 28

President Donald Trump on Sunday night signed the new federal stimulus passed by Congress into law. The move, a week after the legislation landed on his desk, means half a million Pennsylvanians will not necessarily lose pandemic-related unemployment benefits, though payments may be delayed.

As Trump wavered on signing the bill, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry is urging residents to make the shift to state assistance programs.


More than half a million Pennsylvanians will stop receiving pandemic related unemployment benefits after Dec. 26 as federal gridlock prevents CARES Act programs from being extended. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry is urging residents to make the shift to state assistance programs.

“Pennsylvanians receiving PUA or PEUC payments need to be aware that they will not be able to file a claim next week and should begin preparing now to seek the necessities they will need through other means,” said Jennifer Berrier, acting secretary of the Pa. Department of Labor and Industry, or L&I, in a release. “I urge current PUA and PEUC claimants to apply for additional assistance through programs outside of L&I as soon as possible to prevent their families from reaching an emergency or dangerous situation.”

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs were both created through the federal CARES Act.

PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment payments for those ineligible for regular unemployment benefits and for those who have exhausted those benefits. PEUC provides another 13 weeks of benefits.

According to research conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, Pennsylvania is one of the states with the most to gain from additional pandemic unemployment assistance. The study found that the programs could actually “create or save 5.1 million jobs” in 2021 by helping “workers and their families keep their heads above water while breathing necessary life into the economic recovery.” Using their model, Pennsylvania’s job share would increase by 5.7% — which equates to 265,000 jobs gained. With the CARES Act set to expire, Pennsylvanians using those programs to make ends meet — will have to look elsewhere.

“The reason they’re expiring is because we’re still waiting on the federal CARES Act extension to be passed,” said Sarah DeSantis, L&I’s press secretary. “It’s tied up in the federal government right now and so we can’t continue making payments in those programs until that program gets renewed through the federal government.”

And even if the programs are signed back into law, immediate help is unlikely.

“It’s not as easy as flipping a switch to get any of these programs back on. We have to wait to get information from the federal Department of Labor after the bill is signed, and so it could be a few weeks after the bill is signed until we start getting people payments again,” DeSantis said. “We really want to see the federal government approve some form of an extension of these programs as soon as possible that way … as few Pennsylvanians as possible are seeing a gap in their unemployment.”

In the meantime, state officials want Pennsylvanians to look at other local resources even if they may not have the same capacities as unemployment — resources like United Way of Pennsylvania’s 211 program.

“They just have to reach out to 211 either through text, by calling, or going online to pa211.org and they can search by their ZIP codes to find programs in their area. It includes everything from food banks, clothing resources, housing assistance and utility help,” DeSantis said.

Officials also want to remind Pennsylvanians of state programs that are available.

“We do have things like health insurance through Pennie which is the new state health insurance exchange. We have programs like LIHEAP which is going to help with the cost of energy which is important right now because we are in the cold,” DeSantis said.

Lastly, the state is also urging Pennsylvanians to look toward the L&I department for necessary updates as some individuals aim to take advantage of people most impacted by the pandemic.

“We do know that we have seen fraudsters putting out misinformation saying claimants can contact them to get help getting their payments even though this program hasn’t been extended and we want to keep Pennsylvanians from being taken advantage of right now,” DeSantis said.

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