Pa. spending $40 M to speed up unemployment claims

Pennsylvania has a new law to process unemployment claims more quickly.

It replaces lost federal dollars with money from the state unemployment compensation fund.

Callers with questions for the Pennsylvania unemployment office had complained about busy signals and long wait times. The federal government even criticized the office processing claims too slowly.

The new law allocates $40 million in the first year to beef up staffing and technology.

Philadelphia Unemployment Project’s John Dodds has been a vocal critic of how long it has taken to process claims.

“It can only be a plus and they need to adequately staff the phone centers and so forth and hopefully this will help do that,” said Dodds.

Sharon Dietrich of Community Legal Services says her group worked with the law’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Keller (D-South Philadelphia).

“For all of the four legislative caucuses and the administration to come together on a solution feels wonderful,” said Dietrich. “I could almost pinch myself.”

The money comes from the unemployment compensation fund. Each year that fund pays out two to three billion dollars to Pennsylvanians looking for work.

In a statement, Labor & Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway said that, “Throughout the process, there was not a single negative vote cast, which is a testament to the spirit of cooperation, bipartisanship and leadership of Governor Corbett and the General Assembly to resolve an urgent issue.”

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