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PA GOP wants to restore work-search rule for jobless benefits

HARRISBURG (AP) — Republicans in Pennsylvania’s GOP-controlled Legislature are advancing legislation to reinstate work-search requirements for people claiming unemployment benefits, saying workers aren’t returning to jobs.

The bill cleared the House Labor and Industry Committee on a party-line vote Tuesday.

The sponsor, Labor and Industry Committee Chairman Jim Cox, R-Berks, contends that employers are having trouble finding workers, and that they often blame the additional $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits during the pandemic and the lack of a work-search requirement.

The extra $300 weekly is scheduled to last through the week ending Sept. 4. Pennsylvania reported about 255,000 initial and continued unemployment compensation claims last week.

Lawmakers suspended the work-search requirement through 2020 amid the pandemic last year, but Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, extended the waiver administratively into this year. The bill would reinstate the requirement starting June 8.

Wolf’s office did not say whether he supports or opposes the bill, only that he would review it should it pass the Legislature.

Still, Wolf’s office said unemployment benefits only provide a portion of a worker’s lost wages, and countered that certain industries may have difficulty hiring workers if parents have children learning at home or people are waiting for a second vaccine dose before returning to work.

Wolf’s office also suggested that employers need to pay more.

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