We Asked All 203 Members of the PA House Whether Congress Should Extend Your Unemployment

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By Jenna Fletcher

August 19, 2020

“Hardworking Pennsylvanians need more than a temporary program that is forcing us to recreate the wheel,” Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said Tuesday.

It’s been nearly six months since the coronavirus outbreak hit Pennsylvania and caused the state’s unemployment rate to skyrocket. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate is about 13%, roughly 3 percentage points higher than the national unemployment average.

Since the $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, Pennsylvanians who can’t work only receive weekly checks for a percentage of their weekly wage through the state’s unemployment system. The weekly rate comes out to roughly half of an employee’s wage, with a maximum benefit of $572 per week.

On Tuesday, Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak told reporters that Pennsylvania will ask the federal government for a new round of $300 in weekly unemployment benefits under a presidential order tapping into disaster relief aid. He added that the Wolf administration would prefer Congress extend the $600-a-week unemployment supplement, but will pursue the smaller payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Hardworking Pennsylvanians need more than a temporary program that is forcing us to recreate the wheel,” Oleksiak said.

The Keystone reached out to every member of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives regarding their support for extending unemployment benefits. This story will be updated with their responses.

Responses from Lawmakers

Of the current members of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, those below have spoken with Keystone regarding unemployment. These comments have been edited for grammar and brevity, and are listed in no particular order.

Rep. Cris Dush, R-66

Rep. Rush did not directly answer yes or no when asked if he supported extending unemployment benefits. Instead, he focused on Gov. Wolf, saying the governor needs to get out of the way of business and allow people to return to work.” After an initial decline in COVID-19 cases, the number of people infected steadily increased through July and has remained higher through much of August. 

Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-19

Rep. Wheatley said: “I 1000% think—know–it needs to be extended, and people need the system fixed so that all of our citizens can have some level of support through this unprecedented time. Yes, yes, and hell yes!”

Rep. James Struzzi, R-62

Rep. Struzzi didn’t directly answer the question on the federal extension. He said it was “important to provide these benefits,” but didn’t specify if he was referring to the federal extension that expired a few weeks ago. Struzzi said the government needs “to find a way to get everyone back to work as soon as possible.”

Rep. Sue Helm, R-104

Rep. Helm said she thought the federal unemployment benefit should decrease from $600 to $400, and then maybe “less depending on what continues to happen with the coronavirus.” Helm also said she knows that “people that can work and should work need to go back to work, and they can’t rely on the $600 a week check that they are getting in the mail.”

“I don’t want people to be starving and to go without things they need. I just want them to go back to work when they can and should.”

Rep. Mary Isaacson, D-175

Rep. Isaacson said: “Congress must do everything it can to act quickly and extend the federal pandemic unemployment assistance. Pennsylvanians need all of the financial help they can get as we navigate this pandemic and their bills are already piling up without the extra $600 benefit.”

Rep. Ben Sanchez, D-153

Rep. Sanchez said there’s no question” that the federal government should be “extending unemployment benefits during an ongoing health and economic crisis and providing so many people who find themselves in this situation a chance to keep their heads above water.”

Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-146

Rep. Ciresi said the federal government should not be setting up a new unemployment program,” and called for grants that the state could “pass directly to the unemployed in the form of an extra $200 to $400 per week.” 

Rep. Mark Keller, R-86

Rep. Keller didn’t say if he supported extending the federal unemployment benefits, instead explaining President Donald Trump’s executive action that encourages states to match extended federal unemployment benefits. He also said the state’s Labor Department was having a hard time “[implementing] changes to their system, so even if the program goes forward, it is not clear how long it will be before anyone gets the payments.”

Rep. Ed Neilson, D-174

Rep. Neilson said that extending unemployment benefits is a must at this time…History has been written previously when the UC benefits were extended multiple times and it would be prudent for Congress to do the same.”   

“I am an electrician by trade,” he added. “It doesn’t take a group of doctors or scientists to see this pandemic is far from over and is going to affect us for the next 13 weeks and more—pass a bill!”

Rep. Donna Bullock, D-195

Rep. Bullock said the extra unemployment benefits “has provided a safety net for many of these families. We can’t pull that net from under them now, not until we safely bring them back into the workforce.”

Rep. Roni Green, D-190

Rep. Green said extending unemployment benefits is “monumental to the constituents we serve every day during this pandemic.” She added that she “would support any legislation to extend unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania.”

Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-116)

Rep. Toohil said there is “no question that unemployment benefits should be extended to assist families and individuals who continue to struggle to keep a roof overhead and food on the table.” She also criticized the governor for “drastic business closures” at the start of the pandemic.

Lawmakers who have not responded

At this time, the Keystone has not received statements from the following:

  • Stephen Barrar, R-160
  • Kerry A Benninghoff, R-171
  • Aaron Bernstine, R-10
  • Ryan A Bizzarro, D-3
  • Karen Boback, R-117
  • Timothy R. Bonner, R-8
  • Stephanie Borowicz, R-76
  • Kevin J Boyle, D-172
  • Matthew D Bradford, D-70
  • Tim Briggs, D-149
  • Bob Brooks, R-54
  • Rosemary M Brown, R-189
  • Danilo Burgos, D-197
  • Frank Burns, D-72
  • Thomas R Caltagirone, D-127
  • Mike Carroll, D-118
  • Martin T Causer, R-67
  • Morgan Cephas, D-192
  • Carolyn T Comitta, D-156
  • Scott Conklin, D-77
  • Bud Cook, R-49
  • Jim Cox, R-129
  • Angel Cruz, D-180
  • Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108
  • Bryan Cutler, R-100
  • Mary Jo Daley, D) 225
  • Eric Davanzo, R-58
  • Margo L Davidson, D-164
  • Austin A Davis, D-35
  • Tina M Davis, D-141
  • Jason Dawkins, D-179
  • Gary Day, R-187
  • Daniel J Deasy, D-27
  • Pamela A DeLissio, D-194
  • Dave Delloso, D-162
  • Sheryl M Delozier, R-88
  • Anthony M DeLuca, D-32
  • Frank Dermody, D-33
  • Russ Diamond, R-102
  • Gene DiGirolamo
  • Maria P Donatucci, D-185
  • Matthew D Dowling, R-51
  • Michael J Driscoll, D-173
  • George Dunbar, R-56
  • Torren Ecker, R-193
  • Joe Emrick, R-137
  • Garth D Everett, R-84
  • Frank A Farry, R-142
  • Mindy Fee, R-37
  • Elizabeth Fiedler, D-184
  • Isabella V Fitzgerald, D-203
  • Marty Flynn, D-113
  • Dan Frankel, D-23
  • Robert Freeman, D-207
  • Jonathan Fritz, R-111
  • Matt Gabler, R-75
  • Ed Gainey, D-24
  • John T Galloway, D-140
  • Valerie S Gaydos, R-44
  • Mark M Gillen, R-128
  • Keith Gillespie, R-45
  • Barbara Gleim, R-199
  • Neal P Goodman, D-123
  • Jim Gregory, R-80
  • Keith J Greiner, R-43
  • Seth M Grove, R-196
  • Marcia M Hahn, R-138
  • Liz Hanbidge, D-61
  • Patrick J Harkins, D-1
  • Jordan A Harris, D-186
  • Doyle Heffley, R-122
  • Tim Hennessey, R-26
  • Johnathan D Hershey, R-82
  • David S Hickernell, R-98
  • Carol Hill-Evans, D-95
  • Joseph C Hohenstein, D-177
  • Kristine C Howard, D-167
  • Sara Innamorato, D-21
  • Rich Irvin, R-81
  • R. Lee J James, R-64
  • Mike Jones, R-93
  • Barry J Jozwiak, R-5
  • Joshua D Kail, R-15
  • Aaron D Kaufer, R-120
  • Rob W Kauffman, R-89
  • Dawn W Keefer, R-92
  • Fred Keller, R-86
  • Malcolm Kenyatta, D-181
  • Patty Kim, D-103
  • Stephen Kinsey, D-201
  • Brian Kirkland, D-159
  • Kate A Klunk, R-169
  • Jerry Knowles, R-124
  • William C Kortz II, D-38
  • Bridget M. Kosierowski, D-114
  • Leanne Krueger, D-161
  • Anita Astorino Kulik, D-45
  • John A Lawrence, R-13
  • Summer Lee, D-34
  • Andrew Lewis, R-105
  • Mark Longietti, D-7
  • Ryan E Mackenzie, R-134
  • Maureen Madden, D-115
  • Zachary Mako, R-183
  • Steven R Malagari, D-53
  • David M Maloney Sr, R-130
  • Brandon J. Markosek, D-25
  • Jim Marshall, R-14
  • Kurt A Masser, R-107
  • Robert F Matzie, D-16
  • Stephen McCarter, D-154
  • Joanna E McClinton, D-191
  • Jeanne McNeill, D-133
  • Thomas L Mehaffie III, R-106
  • Steven C Mentzer, R-97
  • Robert E Merski, D-2
  • Daryl D Metcalfe, R-12
  • Carl Walker Metzgar, R-69
  • Natalie Mihalek, R-40
  • David R Millard, R-109
  • Brett R Miller, R-41
  • Dan L Miller, D-42
  • Lori A Mizgorski, R-30
  • Dan Moul, R-91
  • Gerald J Mullery, D-119
  • Kyle J Mullins, D-112
  • Thomas P Murt, R-152
  • Marci Mustello, R-11
  • Eric R Nelson, R-57
  • Jennifer O’Mara, D-165
  • Donna Oberlander, R-63
  • Timothy J O’Neal, R-48
  • Jason Ortitay, R-46
  • Danielle Friel Otten, D-155
  • Clint Owlett, R-68
  • Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121
  • Michael Peifer, R-139
  • Joseph A Petrarca, D-55
  • Tina Pickett, R-110
  • F. Todd Polinchock, R-144
  • Michael J Puskaric, R-39
  • Jeffrey P Pyle, R-60
  • Christopher B Quinn, R-168
  • Christopher M Rabb, D-200
  • Jack Rader Jr, R-176
  • Kathy L Rapp, R-65
  • Adam Ravenstahl, D-20
  • Harry Readshaw, D-36
  • Mike Reese, R-59
  • Jim Rigby, R-71
  • Brad Roae, R-6
  • James R Roebuck Jr, D-188
  • Greg Rothman, R-87
  • David H. Rowe, R-85
  • Mark Rozzi, D-126
  • Francis X Ryan, R-101
  • Chris Sainato, D-9
  • Steve Samuelson, D-135
  • Tommy Sankey, R-73
  • Christina D Sappey, D-158
  • Stan Saylor, R-94
  • Paul Schemel, R-90
  • Michael H Schlossberg, D-132
  • Louis C Schmitt, R-79
  • Meghan Schroeder, R-29
  • Peter Schweyer, D-22
  • Melissa L Shusterman, D-157
  • Justin J Simmons, R-131
  • Brian Sims, D-182
  • Pam Snyder, D-50
  • Jared G Solomon, D-202
  • Curtis G Sonney, R-4
  • Craig T Staats, R-145
  • Todd Stephens, R-151
  • P. Michael Sturla, D-96
  • Wendi Thomas, R-178
  • Mike Tobash, R-125
  • Marcy Toepel, R-147
  • Kathleen C. Tomlinson, R-18
  • Jesse Topper, R-78
  • Wendy Ullman, D-143
  • Greg Vitali, D-166
  • Ryan Warner, R-52
  • Perry S Warren, D-31
  • Joe Webster, D-150
  • Parke Wentling, R-17
  • Jeff C Wheeland, R-83
  • Martina A White, R-170
  • Dan K Williams, D-74
  • Rosita C Youngblood, D-198
  • Michael P Zabel, D-163
  • David H Zimmerman, R-99

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