50,000 Self-Employed Pennsylvanians Filed for Unemployment in Two Days

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By Cassandra Stone

April 22, 2020

Because the system to process those applications is still being developed, there is currently no timeline for when these benefits will be paid.

On Friday, self-employed individuals and gig workers were finally able to begin applying for unemployment benefits through Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor & Industry. In just two days, more than 50,000 people submitted applications, officials said Monday. However, there is currently no timeline for when these benefits will be paid.

The applications for self-employed and gig workers are part of the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provided by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for people who aren’t typically eligible for benefits. Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said the Pennsylvania system for assessing and approving applications is still being developed, per the Morning Call. He hopes collecting information from applicants will help the state move faster in paying out benefits.

“The sooner we can get these applications in and continue creating the system the sooner we can get those benefits out,” he said.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Unemployment Assistance system is only able to collect a self-employed or gig working claimant’s information but should be fully operational within a few weeks, according to Susan Dickinson, the Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy director.

“At this stage, it’s better to collect that information and be ready to go when the system is fully functional,” she told the Bucks County Courier Times. Those who are filing may receive a message confirming their eligibility for regular UC benefits as well.

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Since March 15, roughly 1.5 million Pennsylvanianis have filed an unemployment claim; as of April 20, more than $1 billion has been paid out in benefits. Oleksiak said during the three weeks prior to March 15, the total number of claimants was 40,000.

Nationwide, more than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment since March due to the economic fallout caused by the novel coronavirus.

During a press briefing this week, Oleksiak also highlighted the unprecedented volume of people applying for traditional unemployment benefits in addition to the self-employment benefits. He noted that the computer system is “antiquated” and coupled with the volume, has resulted in delays.

RELATED: Pennsylvania Calls on Retired Workers to Help With Flood of Unemployment Claims

To assist with the workload, Oleksiak said the department has ramped up hiring efforts, including bringing in some retirees and employees from other agencies. The department also started paying $600 a week in federal supplemental unemployment benefits to recipients. Once benefits are paid this week, Oleksiak said the money will total $491 million paid to about 818,000 recipients.

Oleksiak told the Morning Call he’s satisfied with Pennsylvania’s effort in developing the system, noting that fewer than a dozen states are accepting applications for pandemic unemployment assistance and only two have paid benefits.

“We’re at the head of the pack and I’m very happy with it.”
The application for unemployment benefits is available here.


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