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L&I Urges U.S. Senate to Extend Pandemic Unemployment Programs

12/02/2020

Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jerry Oleksiak today cautioned that the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs are set to expire Dec. 26. An estimated 400,000 PUA claimants and 109,000 PEUC claimants will lose their critical benefits if the U.S. Senate does not extend the program.

"To allow tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians and millions of Americans to lose their income during a global pandemic in the middle of winter and the holiday season is beyond cruel," said Secretary Oleksiak. "L&I is working with our partners to identity other state programs and assistance for out-of-work Pennsylvanians with urgent needs, such as food and housing. But Pennsylvania needs the U.S. Senate to extend the PUA and PEUC programs before Dec. 26 by passing an extension through legislation, such as the HEROES Act."

PUA and PEUC were created by Congress in March as part of the federal CARES Act in response to an unprecedented surge in national unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits, including those who have exhausted all rights to such benefits. PUA claimants include self-employed works, such as independent contractors, gig economy workers, and workers for certain religious entities, as well as individuals seeking part-time employment, lacking sufficient work history, and those who otherwise do not qualify for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits.

PEUC provides 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to qualified individuals whose regular unemployment benefits were exhausted on or after July 6, 2019. PEUC has become increasingly critical as the pandemic continues because more unemployed Pennsylvanians are reaching the 26-week maximum for traditional Unemployment Compensation. L&I urges an extension to this program to assist the Pennsylvanians who will be unable to resume working or find a new job through no fault of their own until after the pandemic and related economic troubles have ended. Approximately 109,000 Pennsylvanians will exhaust or be cut off from their benefits if PEUC is not extended.

"In addition to the tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians who will directly lose their benefits on Dec. 26, the abrupt conclusion of these two critical programs will have devastating secondary effects on the businesses where claimants spend their benefits," said Secretary Oleksiak. "The end of PUA and PEUC will further paralyze the economy, causing additional job losses and business closures. I am urging the U.S. Senate to act immediately to extend these programs and protect the American economy from suffering more damage."

MEDIA CONTACT: Sarah DeSantis, dlipress@pa.gov

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