Pennsylvania’s GOP-led state Senate ended its last voting day of the session by declining to vote on a bill to maintain a dedicated funding stream to state unemployment compensation offices for an additional year.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has condemned the chamber’s decision not to vote, saying it will force layoffs and possibly, office closures around the state.
According to the Department of Labor and Industry, that’s a very real concern.
The proposal that died in the Senate would have allocated $57.5 million to the state’s unemployment compensation program over the next year.
It would have gone to a variety of areas, including the call centers that field jobless claims.
There are seven such offices in the state, and Department of Labor of Industry spokeswoman Sara Goulet said they currently employ about 5,000 people.
But starting soon, she said, the number will be slashed by about 600 people. And she noted that it will likely affect service.
“That’s the worst consequence of the Senate failing to vote,” she said. “We cannot provide the same level of service if we don’t have 600 people who help us administer unemployment.”
She also said layoffs on that scale would undo the progress the program has made since 2012 in processing claims more efficiently.
“Back then, people waited about an hour on the phone,” she recalled. “Now, people wait about nine minutes on the phone. I can’t say that’s going to continue without the funding.”
Goulet said layoffs and other cost cuts will start as soon as next week.
She added that it’s possible some offices may ultimately close down entirely, though it’s too soon to know for sure.