Harrisburg, PA – With only 15 days remaining before the federal CARES Act expires, Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier today again urged Congress to act immediately to pass an extension to the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs. Without an extension, next week will be the final week more than 500,000 Pennsylvanians can file claims for these two critical pandemic unemployment programs.
"More than half a million Pennsylvania workers are careening toward a financial cliff if the federal government does not act now to continue the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs," said Berrier. "The Wolf Administration is doing everything in its power to assist Pennsylvanians through other existing programs, but we need Congress to put these workers and their families first and extend the vital, life-sustaining programs in the federal CARES Act."
In anticipation of the conclusion of the programs, L&I has been working with other agencies and organizations to increase awareness of programs other than unemployment. Pennsylvanians are encouraged to follow L&I's Facebook and Twitter accounts for important updates and share the department's Facebook and Twitter posts about the status of these important programs.
"While we are bound by the rules of unemployment programs and cannot pay unemployment to people who aren't eligible, we are also going to do everything we can to prevent Pennsylvanians from going hungry, losing their homes, and having their utilities shut off if Congress fails to act," added Berrier. "We are working with our partners in the departments of Agriculture, Insurance, and Human Services, the Pennsylvania Utility Commission, and the United Way of Pennsylvania, as well as others to direct out-of-work Pennsylvanians to support programs in their communities. But these programs are not replacements for the unemployment support Pennsylvanians need during this pandemic and they do not erase our need for Congress to enact a solution before they break for the holidays."
PUA and PEUC were created by Congress in March as part of the federal CARES Act in response to the 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. More than 400,000 Pennsylvanians will abruptly lose their PUA benefits if Congress does not extend the program.
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.
Earlier this week, Governor Tom Wolf joined New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to call upon Congress pass an extension of critical programs in the CARES Act, including unemployment programs. At the beginning of December, Gov. Wolf urged Congress in a letter to extend the PUA and PEUC programs.
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