Local lawmakers dealing with jobless claim problems

Local lawmakers say they’ve heard from countless constituents in recent months who have not received state unemployment benefits.

Since March 15, the state has reportedly paid out more than $16 billion in jobless claims, but many people have not seen their money.

“Sometimes they can’t even apply,” state Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, said. “The problem is that there are those who are weeks and months behind who have received nothing, and it’s so hard to get through to the state. They come to us for help.”

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said his staff has also fielded countless phone calls and emails from people unable to learn the status of their benefits.

“Unfortunately, the state has an outdated computer system,” he said. “With this pandemic, the old system got absolutely swamped.”

Numbers vary as to how many people are still waiting for jobless benefits, but they include many people in this region.

“We haven’t been faced with a jobless situation of this magnitude,” Wheeland said. “Every day, we get multiple calls on this. The bottom line is it’s not getting any better.”

Yaw said while it’s possible his office is not receiving as many calls about the issue as a month ago, it’s still clearly a problem.

Adding to the problem, he said, are the additional jobless claims being processed including those who qualify for 13 additional weeks of payments through the state’s Unemployment Compensation Extended Benefits program.

“This is all in a system not ready to handle it,” he said.

Wheeland said the situation has been going on too long.

“All we get out of the governor’s office is lip service that it’s going to get better,” he said. “(But) it doesn’t seem to improve.”

Wheeland said people filing fraudulent jobless claims haven’t helped the problem.

“It’s just a very difficult process to navigate,” he said.

Latest statewide jobless figures are at 13.1 percent, according to Labor & Industry. For the Williamsport metropolitan area, the figure is 12.7 percent.


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