UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania: how to claim the weekly payment

Residents who have exhausted their state or federal jobless payments can use the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programme to extend the weekly payments.

Unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania: how to claim the weekly payment
SAUL LOEB AFP

As the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic continue to strangle the American jobs market, more people are being forced to rely on unemployment insurance to ensure that they can pay the bills. In Pennsylvania, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programme, or PEUC for short, has proved to be a vital lifeline.

The weekly payments are funded by the emergency stimulus bill signed into law in late December as the additional unemployment benefits were on the brink of running out. The PEUC programme provides an additional 24 weeks of support for those who have exhausted their state benefits.

In recent months Pennsylvania’s Labor Department have increased staffing levels by 165% to deal with the influx of requests but with more than 83,000 new claims filed in the last week of January alone, they face an uphill battle to keep up with the demand.

“I am very empathetic,” the state's acting Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier said in a recent news conference. “We realize people are suffering and we want to help.”

How to claim the Pennsylvania PEUC unemployment benefit

The first thing to note is that this additional benefit is only available to those who have already exhausted their bi-weekly state or federal unemployment compensation (UC) or who have reached the end of their benefits year.

The maximum length of UC eligibility varies depending on the length of previous employment. However you will be alerted that this is the case ahead of time.

Once your UC has been exhausted most recipients will be switched automatically to the PEUC programme and you will begin to receive your 24 weeks of additional payments.

If your UC stopped because your benefits year has expired then you will need to apply for PEUC online with the Pennsylvania state Office of Unemployment Compensation. Your benefits year expires 12 months after you first filed a claim. For example, if you first applied for benefits on 1 February 2020, then your UC would have been exhausted by the end of January 2021.

The amount offered in the PEUC will be the same as the UC benefit’s weekly payment, and is based on your reported earnings for the base year. This means that you will retain the additional $300 per week that was included in the UC under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation FPUC) programme. However the additional $300 is set to end 13 March.

Pennsylvania officials warn of unemployment benefits scams

While this extra support will be invaluable to many during this tough time, unfortunately there are numerous reporters of scam artists illegally acquiring personal details to claim the funds for themselves.

Fraudsters have been ramping up their efforts to try and steal some of this funding” Berrier said of the troubling increase of scammers tricking people out of their jobless benefits. “These fraudsters are very bold in their attempts to steal personally identifiable information from Pennsylvanians.”

Earlier this week Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Zarallo announced that his office had arrested 29 people from six separate fraud rings in connection with scams which have taken roughly $2.5 million from residents.

Officials have warned that the scammers contact UC recipients through social media or over the phone to steal an individual's personal information. They can then use their usernames, passwords, social security number and personal identification numbers to redirect the payments to their own pockets.

For more information on what to look out for check out the Unemployment Claims Fraud on the Pennsyvlania Department of Labor and Industry’s website, where you can also report an incident. Alternatively, call the PA Fraud Hotline on 1-800-692-7469.