Pa. Labor Department downplays federal criticism over unemployment benefit delays

Pennsylvania administers more than $100 million of federal money for the unemployed.

According to a letter, which was obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the federal agency is upset about the long lag times for approving benefits.

The letter is being taken out of context, says Sara Goulet with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

“It’s difficult to explain a kind of complicated longstanding relationship in one letter,” Goulet said Tuesday. “There’s always going to be back and forth on timeliness and grants and getting paperwork and following up.”

Goulet says the Pennsylvania department has a good relationship with its federal counterpart.

However, John Dodd of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project says the criticisms in the federal agency’s letter ring true to his experience. People are so upset over busy signals on the state’s hotline that his group has staged protests.

“We have been flooded with calls daily from people who have been laid off that are trying to figure out what’s going on with their only sources of income,” he said. “And the reason for it is major layoffs in the people who answer the phones.”

The U.S. Department of Labor also challenged Pennsylvania’s claim that it’s having trouble processing applications quickly because it lost $30 million of federal funding.

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