PENNSYLVANIA — The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) has made significant improvements to the customer-service experience for Unemployment Compensation (UC) claimants. Under Secretary Nancy A. Walker, L&I has doubled its capacity of trained staff to provide real-time updates, assist with navigating the dashboard, and answer questions through UC Live Chat. These changes aim to make the UC system more accessible and efficient for those in need of assistance.
Available to claimants at www.uc.pa.gov/Chat, this service uses end-to-end encryption to ensure messages are kept private and secure. With the added capacity of trained staff to assist claimants, UC Live Chat is currently available with little to no wait for service. L&I served more than 9,000 individuals in July through the UC Live Chat option.
“At L&I, we are driven by our commitment to delivering services to Pennsylvanians that meet their expectations – especially when those services are critical benefits that help workers and their families stay financially afloat after the loss of a job,” Secretary Walker said. “With the additional staff trained to help claimants through UC Live Chat, we are making the UC system as navigable as possible for people in tough situations to get the help they need – and without long wait times.”
When he took office, Governor Josh Shapiro promised to make overhauling the UC system a priority and is following through on his commitment to enhance the 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. Under the Shapiro Administration, the Department has aggressively prioritized the resolution of a workload that overwhelmed the system during the pandemic period of high unemployment.
The Department’s top priority is resolution of the pandemic backlog of claims, which includes any unresolved claims filed between March 2020 and November 2021. During this period of high unemployment, the Department received 3.7 million regular UC claims and 3.4 million Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims (a temporary federal program that expired in September 2021). The outstanding backlog of unresolved pandemic claims totaled just 1,140 at the end of July 2023 – down nearly 11,700 since April.
There are no claims in the pandemic backlog that are waiting for an initial review; rather, each of these claims is pending due to an extenuating circumstance. For example, many of these claims lack required information for eligibility determination from the claimant, employer or both and can be resolved only through the manual process of collecting the needed information.
Separately, the Department continues to process new claims. In July 2023, L&I received 33,893 claims in its regular workload and distributed UC benefits totaling $164,140,676 to 95,021 eligible claimants.
In July, L&I served:
- 66,435 individuals through the UC helpline at 888-313-7284;
- 9,117 individuals through the UC Live Chat service;
- 18,278 individuals through email.
Since May, UC staff have been answering emails in real time.
Through the Department’s UC Connect program offering in-person customer service at Pennsylvania CareerLink® locations, L&I served 3,066 individuals in July for a total of 50,594 since the program’s launch in May 2022.
In addition to the record-breaking spike in UC claims over the past three years, L&I also received an unprecedented number of fraud reports. Since the start of the Shapiro Administration in January, L&I has resolved nearly all of the roughly 34,000 fraud reports that remained. At the end of July, the number of outstanding fraud reports totaled 2,565.
L&I reminds UC claimants of their responsibility to 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).
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 Act (WARN). Rapid Response Services are available to employers and employees at no cost.
For the month of July 2023, L&I provided Rapid Response Services to 28 employers and 2,038 workers – including employees of Stitch Fix (393), Goodblend PA, LLC (103), Jefferson Health (446) and Yellow Corporation (968).
Since the start of the year, L&I’s Rapid Response Services team has supported 188 employers and 11,905 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.