Philadelphia Unemployment Project Helping Frustrated Citizens Get Unemployment Claims Processed

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By Trang Do August 6, 2020 at 6:17 pm

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — While millions wait on Congress to pass a second coronavirus relief bill, some are still waiting for unemployment compensation from the state of Pennsylvania. Applicants have reported hours-long wait times to get to someone on the phone or through LiveChat online.

Some say they haven’t been able to get through to anyone at all, leaving their claims in limbo.

“I’m living from my savings, thank goodness, because there’s nothing else,” Maria Velez said.

Velez’s savings are dwindling as she waits for unemployment compensation from Pennsylvania.

“I know that I’m not alone,” she said. “I know that there’s a lot of people in the same situation.”

Velez filed for unemployment on May 17, after she was laid off from her job in the travel industry. She received a letter that she was approved but has not gotten a single check.

The issue is so widespread that a nonprofit called the Philadelphia Unemployment Project is taking down people’s names and contact information to help them get their claims processed. One grateful woman shared that she was able to get relief through the program.

“I was very pleased what he did. He took care of the situation. I’m pleased to announce that my benefits are now caught up,” she said on a video call with organizer Ted Kelly.

A Department of Labor and Industry spokesperson says 94% of people filing claims between March 15 and July 4 have been paid or were informed they were ineligible. The other 6% have more complicated situations that staff members are reviewing.

To deal with the overwhelming number of claims due to the pandemic, the department is hiring additional employees who will begin training next month. Some 450 new hires started in July.

Velez says she really can’t afford to wait much longer.

“My plan is not to wait any longer for unemployment and try to get a job as soon as possible so that I can have some type of income,” she said.

Those who can’t get through via phone or chat are encouraged to email questions to uchelp@pa.gov.

It may take several days to get a response. The department also holds weekly virtual town halls on Thursdays at 1 p.m. where people can call in or submit questions about their claims.

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