Contact: Trevor Monk, firstname.lastname@example.org
Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) today announced the extension of a successful program that enhances Pennsylvanians' access to the Unemployment Compensation (UC) system by offering in-person appointments to claimants in communities throughout the Commonwealth.
The program -- newly dubbed UC Connect -- has served nearly 34,000 UC claimants with in-person appointments at 58 PA CareerLink® locations since its launch in May 2022 with grant funding through the U.S. Department of Labor. UC Connect has been so popular among claimants seeking assistance that L&I has allocated staff and funding to continue the program indefinitely.
"Pennsylvania workers deserve a reliable Unemployment Compensation system that meets its obligation as a true safety net – and that starts with excellent customer service. We are choosing to continue this program not only because claimants and advocates have told us many times that they love the in-person interaction offered through UC Connect, but also because it has empowered L&I staff to engage on a deeper level with our constituents and provide the effective customer service that Pennsylvanians deserve and expect," L&I Acting Secretary Nancy Walker said.
In-person services for UC claimants 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 schedule an appointment, claimants should contact a PA CareerLink® center directly. In the months ahead, L&I intends to offer additional scheduling mechanisms for in-person appointments. More information about UC Connect is available on L&I's website.
The Shapiro Administration is committed to enhancing the UC system's functionality to process claims in a timely manner, optimize customer service at all levels, and bolster the system's resilience during times of low or high unemployment. To this end, the department is implementing a comprehensive strategy to augment the overall UC workforce and prioritize technical updates to the system. These measures will enable L&I to simultaneously resolve the pandemic backlog of claims while building a more efficient and effective system.
Here's what worker advocates and labor leaders are saying about the department's decision to continue UC Connect:
"We think it's a positive development that L&I will extend in-person Unemployment Compensation service at the Commonwealth's CareerLink locations, connecting knowledgeable UC staff with claimants in their home communities," said Steve Catanese, president of SEIU Local 668. "Keeping this program going will continue to provide improved access to UC services and help streamline complex claims and questions, making the process less daunting for Pennsylvanians. We look forward to continuing to work with Acting Secretary Walker and the Shapiro-Davis Administration on further improvements to the UC system."
"Unemployment is a complex system, and many claimants struggle to understand their place in it or how to use new UC technology to file claims and appeals. Claimants often need human contact to make the system workable. That's why I am thrilled to learn that L&I will continue to offer in-person assistance at PA CareerLinks. This is a great example of the Governor and Acting Secretary's commitment to fixing and strengthening the UC system," said Julia Simon-Mishel, supervising attorney of the Unemployment Compensation Unit at Philadelphia Legal Assistance.
"In-person assistance with UC claims is vital. Not only are barriers often created by the technology that is now virtually required to file applications and weekly claims -- Too few UC staff are working an over-burdened telephone system, creating long wait times for claimants who can't wait indefinitely on hold. The requirements of the UC Law are complicated and can be difficult for claimants to navigate on their own," said Sharon Dietrich, litigation director at Community Legal Services. "Continuing the in-person assistance program that provides the best possible solution to these problems is absolutely essential, so that unemployed workers can get the funds that they are entitled to when they need them."
"The PA State Building Trades supports and applauds Acting Secretary Walker's decision to keep in-person customer service available for helping people navigate the Unemployment Compensation system. This is a critically necessary step in strengthening an over-burdened system and hopefully this leads to full staffing of the UC centers after suffering the excessive cuts in the past," said Robert S. Bair, president of the PA State Building Trades.
"Many unemployed workers who struggle to navigate the online UC system can't explain themselves by telephone -- they need to show someone their papers and communicate in person. We are encouraged that L&I has the resources to continue the in-person access to UC staff at the many CareerLinks around the state for those people unable to use the online and phone systems," said Barney Oursler, director of the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee in Pittsburgh. "On behalf of the many unemployed workers challenged when in-person services were eliminated years ago, the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee applauds the announcement that the Shapiro Administration will continue this program to help them get the benefits they are entitled to."
For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, please visit the website or follow L&I on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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