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Department of Labor & Industry Launches New Online Resource for School Bus Drivers, Other Seasonal School Workers Seeking Unemployment Compensation Benefits

07/02/2024

Contact: Trevor Monk, dlipress@pa.gov

Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) has created a new web page with information for school bus drivers and other seasonal workers about how to apply for Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits during the summer break. The page includes information about how to reopen a claim, how to avoid unnecessary eligibility issues, and what to expect in terms of payment timing for eligible claimants.

Each year, L&I's Unemployment Compensation team assists thousands of school bus drivers across Pennsylvania with their claims. In addition to launching the comprehensive information page, the UC team worked with the Pennsylvania School Bus Association in the months leading up to summer break to educate workers about their rights and responsibilities.

“We realize the process to file for UC benefits can be intimidating, especially for anyone who's never done it before or for folks who work seasonal jobs. That's why we're working proactively whenever possible to educate groups of workers about how to navigate the system and avoid unnecessary delays. I encourage school bus drivers, crossing guards, janitors and other school-related workers who might be eligible for UC benefits this summer to reference our information page online and file a claim," L&I Secretary Nancy A. Walker said.

Seasonal workers like bus drivers who have filed UC claims in the past should be prepared to reopen their past claim – not start a new one – during their first week of unemployment. After reopening a claim, workers should file weekly benefit certifications online or by using the Department's touch tone telephone service, called PAT, at 888-255-4728 (en Español, 877-888-8104).
 
UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION UPDATE
  
When he took office, Governor Josh Shapiro promised to make overhauling the UC system a priority and directed L&I to focus first on the resolution of the pandemic-era backlog – a workload of 40,000 remaining claims filed between March 2020 and November 2021 that each required individual examination and adjudication. Under Secretary Walker's leadership, the entire backlog was eliminated within seven months.
With bipartisan support in the 2023-24 budget, L&I leveraged the Service Improvement and Infrastructure Fund (SIIF) to hire more than 380 additional UC interviewers to staff service centers and answer calls since January 2023. The impact of that investment is clear: wait times for phone assistance have decreased dramatically, and Pennsylvanians are once again receiving the efficient, timely customer service they deserve.

L&I distributed more than $1.7 billion in UC benefits in 2023 to about 326,000 Pennsylvanians – all of whom experienced the loss of a job or work hours through no fault of their own. 
In May 2024, L&I received 41,204 claims and distributed UC benefits totaling $135,876,065 to 83,298 eligible claimants

In May, L&I served: 

  • 98,028 individuals through the UC helpline at 888-313-7284;
  • 4,174 individuals through the UC Live Chat service; and
  • 12,407 individuals through email

Since May 2023, UC staff have been answering most emails within 24 hours. 


Through the Department's UC Connect program offering in-person customer service at Pennsylvania CareerLink® locations, L&I served 2,502 individuals in May for a total of 77,777 since the program's launch two years ago. UC Connect ensures that Pennsylvania's UC program is a true safety net for workers who have lost a job through no fault of their own by enhancing the accessibility of the program. In-person services for UC claimants available at Pennsylvania CareerLink® locations are designed to assist individuals who do not have proper technology, equipment, or technical skills; individuals without access to home Internet or broadband; and individuals with limited-English proficiency. To make a UC Connect appointment, claimants should call 1-855-284-8545.

RAPID RESPONSE SERVICES

Rapid Response Services are available for businesses and workers in the event of job dislocation caused by a natural disaster, economic transition, planned layoff or closure through the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Rapid Response Services are available to employers and employees at no cost. 

In May, L&I provided Rapid Response Services to 37 employers and 1,420 workers.

L&I invites business owners experiencing economic challenges to contact the Department for Rapid Response assistance by emailing RA-LI-BWPO-Rapid@pa.gov or calling 866-858-2753. Workers can find additional support through the PA CareerLink® network

For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, please visit the website or follow L&I on FacebookX, and LinkedIn.

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