Pennsylvania gives update on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits
thank you all for joining me today for this update on Pennsylvania’s unemployment programs. I’m acting secretary of labor and industry Jennifer Barrier. During our most recent virtual media briefing last week, I provided an update and indicated we’re still working out some small issues with the two unemployment programs that were extended by the Federal Cares Act. Since then, we’ve made good progress at resolving these issues and getting payments into the hands of Pennsylvanians who need them regarding the program, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. Since this past Sunday, more than 562,000 continue claims have been filed for this program, while claimants have experienced some wait times and slow website loading last week. We’re currently not hearing about those issues and I think that’s a sign that the improvements were making to the poet system are allowing us to better meet the current demands. We are aware of one ongoing issue that is affecting a small group of poet claimants, and we’ve been sharing status updates on our social media pages and website. Ah, small number of claimants are continuing to incorrectly see a U. S. C s code that they have self identified as a permanent resident instead of a U. S. Citizen. We’re doing everything we can to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and will continue to provide important updates as needed. We are making progress and hope toe. Have this issue resolved soon? The following poet issue has been resolved and that’s for claimants who filed for the week ending January 2nd, ninth and 16th but did not receive payments and are eligible for payments. They should have received their money now. Also, poor claimants who have filed for the first time in 2021 will be receiving I’d me emails beginning this week and will need to verify their identities before they can proceed. We advise claimants to keep an eye on their email for those i. D. Me email verifications regarding the pandemic Emergency unemployment compensation program, also known as P. You see, we’ve also made updates on our social media pages and website regarding the other cares Act extension, this one, the PUC program. We’re still working on three outstanding PUC issues PUC claimants who have exhausted their weeks on December 26 were placed on Pennsylvania’s extended benefits program. We’re still currently working on that issue. But we are making progress. Claimants who have filed for the week of January 2nd and ninth before the extensions were in place and did not receive payment. We’re still working on that issue as well, and for claimants who did not get the option to file for weeks between December 26 the day they reopen their claims were making really good progress on that issue and hope to have it resolved shortly. We’re hoping to make an announcement very soon that these issues have been fully resolved and claimants who are affected should continue to watch our social media pages and website for updates. We’re continuing to hear you and investigate any reports of new concerns. We know that claimants who are experiencing delays are frustrated. I’m also frustrated and I take these issues very seriously. We are listening to you and we are investigating these issues and making progress. I know one of the sources of frustration is the inability to reach someone on our customer service team and I’m happy to report that this month we will be adding 120 customer service staff to help increase our capacity to answer phones, engage in live chat and respond to emails. Another issue I’d like to discuss today is the 10 99 G fraud issue. As I mentioned last week, we’re hearing from Pennsylvanians who did not apply for unemployment benefits but received a 10 99 G tax form indicating that they received unemployment payments. It’s important for these Pennsylvania’s to know that they’re likely the victim of identity fraud and should visit w w dot you see dot p a dot gov ford slash fraud to fill out the fraud form. Filling out this form is very crucial. It allows us to investigate and alert the i. R s toe any necessary corrections in income. Once you have completed the fraud form, you can disregard the 10 99 g form and use your real income when filing for taxes. And again, this is guidance that we have received from the iris. You may proceed with filing your taxes as long as you filed that fraud form. Anyone with questions about their 10 99 g tax form should check out the section that we have on our website. You should visit w w dot you see dot p a dot gov ford slash f a Q and click on the blue 10 99 g f A Q box. Thank you again for joining me. I will now take questions from the media. Thank you for those comments. Secretary, as I mentioned at the top of the call or call today is focused on providing an update regarding the recent implementation of the Federal Cares Act extensions in Pennsylvania. If you have questions, please submit your name and media outlet in the chat box. I will then send you a message asking you to commute your audio and you will be able to ask your question live at that time, we will pause for a moment while we wait for some questions to come in. Yeah. Listen, it’s next. Come on. First on deck today will be Liz Kilmer list. Can you please get your line? Thank you. Go ahead, please. Hey, there. Thanks so much for taking our questions. So I have a couple. Um, you mentioned identity fraud just now. Is there any belief that there was some sort of hack within your system where people having their information stolen while trying to apply through the site, which we do know has been been faulty on Ben. Second, do we have just a overall measure of how many payments have not been deposited yet? Owed payments? I mean, are we looking at, like, half Are we What sort of measures that we have? Thank you for your question, Liz, Regarding our website being hacked and any kind of personal identification information being dispersed, we have. You know, we’ve heard rumors of that and we have looked into those allegations. We have not found any any substantive evidence to support those allegations. So at this time, we are not aware of any information being hacked in any information being dispersed regarding personal identification information and regarding payments. I mean, that’s really a complicated question because, you know, there’s there’s issues, you know. Each claim is very fact specific, and it really depends on, you know, you know the reason the individual is claiming unemployment and, you know, I just want to remind everyone that just because you apply for unemployment doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eligible for unemployment. I mean, there’s specific criteria that your claim needs to meet, and especially with Pooh. I mean, there’s 10 criteria that the federal government has put out there that, you know, in order for you to qualify for this program, you have to meet that criteria. So, you know, it’s very difficult to say who has been paid and who hasn’t been paid because some claims actually, um, involved a little bit more investigation on our end t determine whether that individual is truly eligible for unemployment or poem. Thank you. Next we have Kristen’s Johansson from K Y W Kristen. Kristen. You’re still muted. Okay, Okay. You hear me now? Yeah, Go ahead. Kristen. It was forbidding me from one meeting. Um, so kind of a follow up till is this question. Um the There are some people, though, that have had message that we sent emails. Us contacted us about not being able. They’re certifying their claims, but they’re not actually getting the money. Do you have any numbers about how many people that is? And if somebody has certified claims all the way through the certification says yes, you’ve got you know, you’re OK for this week, but they haven’t gotten payment. What should they do? Because they cannot get through. And they’re getting really desperate. All right, Kristen, thank you so much for your question. Um, you know, we are working through any glitches that may be occurring with the system as faras certifying payments. Um, you know, to my knowledge, we are paying out individuals who are certifying and who have eligible claims. I mean, there may be some cases that require again, as I said, additional investigation and that could potentially be holding up any any payments. I encourage individuals Thio, you know, Please send an email to the pool resource account with their information identifying the last four digits of their Social Security number and their specific issues so that our customer service representatives can address those issues as quickly as possible. A ZAY said we are bringing on an additional 120 folks this month. Toe help with our overflow of of customer service claims, phone calls and and emails as well. Next, we have Michaela Dre pack from ABC 27. Michaela. Hi there along the same lines we had someone reach out to us today who said they filed for unemployment, got approved a month later, have been filing their weekly payments, but haven’t gotten any money and just can’t get a hold of anyone over the phone or email. What should they dio? Um you know, at this point again, you know, unfortunately, you know the best way to contact the the department at this time because of the influx of of individuals reaching out is to provide an email in the same format that I stated previously last four digits of their Social Security number and specify as a sebesta is they can the issue that they’re experiencing with their claim. I mean, it is, You know, what we’re noticing is that individuals who have filed for Pu it seems to be people who which seems to be the most problematic. You know, once we do a little bit more investigation, there could be potential issues with their claim which would affect their eligibility. So we’re trying to resolve those issues, but unfortunately they result. They require a little bit more fact finding on our end to determine whether they’re eligible or not. Next on deck is WP Excise Ashley Bishop Ashley, a secretary. Thank you for taking my question. I appreciate it. My questions regarding those 10 99 fraud situation that you talked about What if people have applied for unemployment and then got that form but have yet to get payments? What should be done in that case? You know, many people are still saying they’ve applied for payment. You know, unemployment back in October, November, September and still have are waiting for determinations to even be figured out. What do you say to those people that are getting those forms now and wondering what to Dio? Yes, Thank you for the question. You know, these are all very fact specific, and, you know, we’re trying to address them to the best of our ability, but I’m gonna actually have to get back to you with that particular situation. I know that we have individuals who think that they may be receiving, um, you know, 10 90 nines an error or their 10 90 nines might might contain errors to please reach out to our you see service centers, but let us get you more information on that. So I wanna make sure that I’m providing you with the best information that I have. And again, Ashley, please use the resource account address that is included in the top of the chat box to submit your additional questions, and we can address them after the call. Next we have Bill Kibler online. Bill, you’re on life. Thanks. My question is probably related to the previous one, but I was gonna ask of the people who have received 10 90 nines by mistake that you referenced earlier. Do most of those have most of those people received money by mistake or not. Thank you for the question, Bill. I mean, it really depends. Like I said, this is so fact specific. Some of these individuals who may have not received money and they may be that, you know, they might be the subject of fraud, which we really need them Thio that which is why it’s really important for them to file the fraud form online so that we can begin an investigation, send that information to the I. R. S and and not affect their their tax filing. But, you know, there could be individuals that do receive payments, So I mean, like I said, it really depends. The situations vary. Next, we have a Pittsburgh post, cause that’s Lauren Rosenblatt. Hi. My question is about the switching people from PUC to the program. Can you explain? Um, kind of why that happened and what the holdup is and getting the back. And also how many people are being affected by that? Sure. I think the issue was with the lapse of the first Federal Cares Act when that expired on December 26. I mean, there was some uncertainty as to when the president former president was going to sign it as to whether he was going to sign it and that really, you know, through us for, ah, a bit of a loop, but actually through all the states for Luke Nationwide. So in order to prevent individuals from not receiving payments altogether, we move them over to the extended benefit program on Do you know, really? We’re doing that for their convenience to make sure that they would still receive payments despite the PUC program being lapsed. Um, you know, currently with with trying to make the migration back to the P. U. C program, you know, that’s what we’re working on right now. I think I forget the number of people that it’s currently affecting, but we are making really good progress on that and hope to have an update for you really soon. Next we have Laura bench off from W H Y Y Laura. Hi. Can you hear me? Yes. So my question is about the U. S. C s portal issue. Since I’ve been hearing about it from people for a few weeks now, I was just wondering if you have any more information about what caused that problem and what you all are doing to fix it. Thank you for the question, Laura. And you know what? This actually makes me wish that I actually minored in information technology because, unfortunately, some of the answers to these questions are very technical, and I t related. And this is one of those, um, you know, I know that we’re working very closely with our vendor. To get it addressed, we actually had to manually go through each of those claims. Thio basically flipped the switch back and and make sure that those individuals have the appropriate designation. Um, but it’s my understanding that we’re very close toe having that resolved. Okay, Next. I believe we have. There are been shell from W h y y. And if not, we have a follow up question from Christian Johansson. Kristen, I need you to meet your volume. Yeah, I mean, it takes Yeah, just take the second trees. Um, s o when it comes to trying to contact. I mean, I don’t mean to beat the drum here, but it’s a zoo. Muchas. I appreciate these press conferences there. There just seems to be no answers as to why people can’t actually get through to the unemployment office. I know you guys were adding 120 people, but I know that there are a lot of people, literally with $10 in their accounts, that air emailing us and saying that they have no other options. I you know, I know we try and point them to DHS, but is there? They say that they call it so busy they email if they don’t get back Thio or if they get back to its, like, one word eso. I guess what I’m trying to say is, are you exploring other options in the time being? Because I don’t think a lot of people can even wait another month or so. Kristin. Thank you. And you know, it’s yes. We are constantly looking for new ways to improve and expand our customer service. Um, you know, like I said that, you know, bringing on board the additional 120 folks this month is going to help. We also are planning on on boarding additional folks next month. But we’re constantly looking for out of the box ideas to improve our customer service, to be able to answer individuals, claimants questions and be able to resolve the issues that they’re having. I understand the frustration and trust me, we are extremely frustrated as well. But, you know, unfortunately, with this pandemic, you know, we this department has received over five million unemployment, improve applications, which is something that’s never been seen before. And we’re really trying our best to accommodate the influx of claims and and make sure that we’re providing good customer service. And, um, you know, with the federal programs that we’ve had to stand up and, you know, with the expirations and the uncertainty with the permanency of these programs, it’s it’s really forced us. Thio, you know, be more reactionary than we wanna be. So we will continue to find ways to improve customer service. We understand, and we are very frustrated, and we appreciate your patience. It looks like we have now entered round two of questions for today’s call. So we encourage you that if you have any follow up questions, please submit them at this time. Next up, we have Ashley Bishop from W P XY. Ashley. Hi. Secretary is Christian. Just, um, talked about the problems with getting through to get answers. Can you explain what the current numbers are like We’re hearing from people that, you know, they’ve emailed, you know, a few times. And what what are the current? How many calls are you getting a day? How many emails are you guys getting today? What is your email backlog looking like? We’ve heard it’s in the thousands that you still haven’t gotten back to people. And many people just don’t know where to turn what to dio. Um, they’re reaching out to their local representatives, and they’re still not having much luck. What is your best advice to people on where to go to get answers? Thank you for your question regarding those specifics. I don’t have them on me right now, so if you would kindly email our press office, we’ll get those statistics to you right away. Um, you know, again, the best way to get a hold of us is via email. We’re using Microsoft azure toe help process, the email requests that we’re getting and also thio work with our call center. You know, again, we hear the frustration. We we understand we’re doing everything we can thio to improve upon customer service right now. Next, we have Tom Lehman from W G a l Tom, I need you to meet your audio, please. I think you should be able to hear me now, Secretary question. You know, one thing I wanted to ask, and you may have touched on this a little bit already. But as far as, like, metrics for getting back to people, how are you guys holding yourself accountable? And how How is that? You know, with that process, Because again, I think you’ve already touched on the length of time. And but for people who are wondering how how am I going to know that I get a response? Can you talk about that? Right? I mean, we are monitoring our email accounts. We know where where we’re at and how Maney I think. Currently we’re responding to 11,000 emails, I believe. Ah, week. Um, but I let me get back to you with specifics Are press office can get back to you with specifics, but, um, currently, we’re in the process of developing a strategic plan on how we’re going to move forward with with customer service improvements. Um, you know, it’s it’s definitely been challenging. And, you know, we’ve experienced challenges with with our staffing and our retention rate on keeping our customer service folks, you know, with us, these air very. These jobs are very difficult. And, you know, our folks are working seven days a week around the clock over time, you know, constantly to try to get Thio are claimants and get answers for them. So we’re working to the best of our abilities, and we were constantly looking for ways to improve and make improvements. And we will continue to do that. Oh, next we have Jamie Bittner from Fox 43. Hi there. Thank you so much for holding this update. I was just like saying your words. 11,000 emails. Nearly five million claimants. You said, um, can you give me some current numbers on just how many people do you have on staff right now? Answering phones, responding to emails. And is 120 more people really going to cut it? And if not, uh, where can you find the funding to hire even mawr, you know, and you bring up a good point as faras funding. I mean, unemployment compensation is a federally funded program, so, you know, ah, lot of this relies on the funding that we do get from the federal government. Um, you know, as concerning the services that we can provide, you know, 120 new folks is going to help us. Do we need more? Yes, we do need more. However, it’s it’s the unknown is the permanency of some of these federal programs. Um, you know, we don’t want to hire a bunch of people and then have to lay them off the next month if the federal government decides that it doesn’t want to extend some of these programs. So right now we’re making use of borrowing from other state agencies to to help out with our backlogs, and we’re also working with two contractors and using contract staff to help with with our federal programs next we have ABC 27th, Michela Dre packed with a follow up. Yes, I just wanted Thio ask and see about when you all are rolling out. I know it’s been pushed a little bit further back, but rolling out the new website upgrades. Yes, we’re still working through our benefit modernization project. We’re hoping to go live with that in late spring. That is our hope, although again I will. Caveat a caveat that with if there is additional federal funding requirements or federal requirements that come out with as they relate to you see, that could potentially push back that time frame. You know, the Federal Cares Act extension that we recently implemented. Rick had new requirements to the poo and pee. You see programs which which required us to shift Resource is from our benefits modernization project to those program areas so that we could accommodated the changes that we needed to make to our system. So while we’re very hopeful that we should be able to go live at the end of spring late spring, it all really depends on what happens with the stimulus package that the Biden Administration is proposing and what ultimately enacted by Congress on the president. Thank you. And what would those changes be for the benefit modernization project? Um, you know, the benefits modernization project. What What we’re looking to do is create a more modern, intuitive system that better communicates with our claimants. It’s more similar to the poet system. But obviously, you know, since we’ve we’ve been working on it, you know. Ah, lot longer than we’ve had. You know, we had to throw the poet system in four weeks, the benefits modernization project we’ve been working on for a few years, so it’s gonna be more, more finely tuned. It’s gonna be more intuitive. And we’re hoping to improve communications with our claimants. And also, we’re going to be, um, streamlining. A lot of our process is a lot of them will become mechanical processes as opposed to being hands on processes. Next on deck, we have Tom Lehman from W G O. I just have one other question regarding some of the people who sort of fall through the cracks. Um, and this is because they’re switching from one program to another or, you know, they caught up it sort of the deadlines that that happened at the end of the year? Um, e mean, is there really no other better way to get a hold of somebody from Ellen? Either? Email. And I asked that in the sense that you know, you know, this has kind of been covered already, but it just feels like there’s a lot of people have very specific issues, and they just I feel like you’re not getting anywhere now. And, you know, obviously we email is the best way to get a hold of someone. Of course, we have our chatbots Paula, who’s been really improving our capability and being able to address a lot of a lot of issues. And, you know, we’re hoping by adding additional resource is to our phone lines that will be able to improve and and help many more claimants. Um, you know. But right now that is the best way to get a hold of us is by email. Our final question for today will come from Lauren Rosen, black from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Lauren, Hey, Thanks for taking the follow up. I was wondering if there were any updates on the system to text claimants about information. Yes, we’re very hopeful that we can go live with that very soon that that is going to greatly increase our productivity. We’re really looking forward to implementing that program. And it’s my understanding that I believe it’s supposed to go live by the end of the month. But I will follow up with further information on that. Thank you. Well, Secretary Barrier, That was our final question for the day. Do you have any parting thoughts for our participants? No, I just I would like to thank everyone for your participation today and for the claimants out there. Thank you for your patients. We are working as hard and fast as we can to help you and serve you. And we will continue to look for ways to improve our service. Yeah.
Pennsylvania gives update on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits
Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of Labor and Industry gave an update about Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance on Tuesday morning.Watch the news briefing in the video player above.
Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of Labor and Industry gave an update about Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance on Tuesday morning.
Watch the news briefing in the video player above.