PENNSYLVANIA, USA — The work search requirement has returned for people on unemployment in Pennsylvania as many businesses claim they are having trouble hiring enough staff. Meantime, criticism continues over the new unemployment website as many recipients claim they are still waiting to get paid.
Multiple unemployment recipients who reached out to FOX43 noted concern as they expressed they financially need to find a job equivalent in pay and benefits to the positions they lost during the pandemic. Others noted financial hurdles of child care and ongoing health concerns in returning to work during the pandemic.
Read more on PA's work search requirement
Lawmakers have been debating the work search requirement as far back as May as business owners have expressed frustrations over short staffing as more customers return with vaccinations rolling out.
PA Dept. of Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier announced in May the work search requirement would return in July.
"Work search will be turned on July 18 which means UC claimants will have to search for work the previous week, which would be the week of July 11th," Berrier said in May.
Berrier told lawmakers in May as well that the notion that people on unemployment are receiving a lot of money, and therefore don't want to work, isn't exactly the case.
"I think what really gets overlooks is that the average claimant receives $640 a week," she said. She later added, "this $640 a week is actually 50% of the average weekly wage in Pennsylvania."
The PA Dept of Labor provided the following answers to questions asked by FOX43:
What if you are self-employed and are in the process of opening your business again? Does that count as work search?
The requirement to complete work search is based on filing for unemployment benefits. Each week a person certifies that they have been unemployed, they will also need to certify that they completed work search activities. The requirements are the same for individuals who identify as self-employed.
What if your company is in the process of rehiring you? Can you provide that documentation as work search?
Individuals who have written recall dates from their employer are exempt from work search requirements.
Who , if anyone, is exempt from work search?
The full list of exemptions is at the bottom of page of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Handbook.
What happens if someone gets offered a job and turns it down? Do they lose their benefits?
An individual becomes ineligible for benefits if they decline suitable work without good cause. More information about refusing suitable work can be found here.
What is the top complaint you continue to receive about the rollout of the new website? Any more updates/fixes coming ahead?
Since the new unemployment system launched on June 8, L&I has issued nearly 1.2 million payments totaling more than $1.1 billion. Those numbers are consistent with the weekly claims and new claims that were filed on the old system, indicating the strong majority of people have successfully transitioned to using the new system.
What is the average time people are waiting to receive checks from the moment they file a new claim?
The majority of individuals filing for unemployment benefits are automatically approved by the system. Some individuals with complex cases that require manual review are waiting several weeks for determinations. The new unemployment system allows for staff to write nearly twice as many determinations each week, which is reducing the number of individuals awaiting determinations.
According to the PA Dept. of Labor & Industry website:
Can I be exempt from work search requirements?
Some individuals are exempt from the work search requirements and may not be asked this question. Exemptions include:
Individuals who receive work through a union hiring hall
Individuals on a Shared Work plan through their employer
Individuals in Trade Act training
Individuals attending a RESEA session for the week
Individuals who have written recall dates from their employer
If you are presented with the question, "Did you complete your required work searches and/or work search activities during the week beginning Sunday, [date], and ending with Saturday, [date]?" and are exempt, you will select "Yes." For more information about exemptions, please reference the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Handbook.