Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Team Honored for Clearing Pandemic Backlog

Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry

HARRISBURG, PA — Governor Josh Shapiro has honored members of the Department of Labor & Industry‘s (L&I) Unemployment Compensation (UC) leadership team with the Governor’s Awards for Excellence. This team was recognized for their exceptional work in clearing a massive backlog of unresolved claims and enhancing the UC system to ensure Pennsylvanians receive timely and accurate responses.

Tackling an Unprecedented Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims. In just one month at the start of the pandemic, L&I received more than 1 million claims, marking the highest number in its 107-year history. Despite these overwhelming circumstances, the UC team remained dedicated to helping Pennsylvanians navigate this crisis.

Leadership and Dedication

Under the guidance of Secretary Nancy A. Walker and Unemployment Compensation Deputy Secretary Maria Macus, the team made significant strides. Just seven months after Governor Shapiro took office, they resolved the entire pandemic-era backlog of over 40,000 claims and 34,000 fraud reports from that period.

At a ceremony on June 17, Governor Shapiro honored the following UC team members:

  • Sally Piatak, Director, Office of Unemployment Compensation Tax Services
  • William Piatak, Unemployment Compensation Executive
  • Hanima Amara, Fiscal Management Specialist
  • Shawn Price, Unemployment Compensation Executive
  • David Dodson-Andrews, Project Manager
  • Nsungwe Shamatutu, Director, Office of Unemployment Compensation Service Centers
  • Susan Dickinson, Director, Office of Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy
  • Melissa Stover, UC Appeals System Administrator
Notable Achievements

In 2023, L&I distributed over $1.7 billion in UC benefits to approximately 326,000 Pennsylvanians who lost jobs or work hours through no fault of their own. The team not only addressed the backlog but also managed new claims in real-time, ensuring continuous support for those affected.

Enhanced Customer Service

The team’s efforts extended beyond just resolving claims. They have been implementing customer service improvements since the beginning of the Shapiro Administration. With bipartisan support, L&I leveraged the Service Improvement and Infrastructure Fund (SIIF) to hire more than 380 additional UC interviewers. These new hires are staffing service centers and answering calls, significantly improving the system’s responsiveness.

Importance of Their Work

The work done by the UC team is crucial for several reasons. First, it ensures that individuals who lose their jobs or experience reduced work hours receive financial assistance promptly. This support is vital for their financial stability and well-being. Second, by resolving backlogs and improving customer service, the team has restored faith in the UC system, demonstrating that government can effectively respond to crises.

Enhancing Government Services Through Swift Action and Innovation

The successful resolution of the backlog and the improvements to the UC system have broader implications for public trust and confidence in government services. Effective management of unemployment compensation is essential for economic stability and social welfare, particularly during times of crisis. The UC team’s accomplishments set a precedent for how swift action and dedicated public service can make a tangible difference in people’s lives.

In conclusion, the recognition of L&I’s UC leadership team underscores the importance of efficient and responsive government services. Their work has not only provided critical support to thousands of Pennsylvanians but also showcased the power of dedication and innovation in overcoming unprecedented challenges.

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