PA says state’s L&I Department “resolved” over 26k COVID unemployment reports

31 July 2023- The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) today announced that it has resolved more than 26,000 pandemic-era Unemployment Compensation (UC) fraud reports in the first six months of the Shapiro Administration. In addition to the record-breaking spike in UC claims over the past three years, L&I also received an unprecedented number of fraud reports. Since the start of the Shapiro Administration in January, L&I has resolved more than three-quarters of the roughly 34,000 fraud reports that remained. At the end of June, the number of outstanding fraud reports totaled 7,863.

“When fraudsters targeted UC systems nationwide, they may have expected easy money. But this Department fought back by implementing new security measures and working with our partners in law enforcement to hold fraudsters accountable,” L&I Secretary Nancy A. Walker said. “Every report of suspected fraud deserves to be investigated, and that’s what we’ll do until this workload is resolved.”

The Department also continues to resolve the pandemic backlog of claims and has resolved more than 8,000 pandemic claims since April. 

When he took office, Governor Josh Shapiro promised to make overhauling the UC system a priority and is following through on his commitment to enhance the system’s functionality to process claims in a timely manner, optimize customer service at all levels, and bolster the system’s resilience during times of low or high unemployment. Under the Shapiro Administration, the Department has aggressively prioritized the resolution of a workload that overwhelmed the system during the pandemic period of high unemployment.
The Department’s top priority is resolution of the pandemic backlog of claims, which includes any unresolved claims filed between March 2020 and November 2021. During this period of high unemployment, the Department received 3.7 million regular UC claims and 3.4 million Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims (this was a temporary, federal program that expired in September 2021). The outstanding backlog of unresolved pandemic claims totaled 4,659 at the end of June 2023 – down more than 8,000 since April. 

There are no claims in the pandemic backlog that are waiting for an initial review; rather, each of these claims is pending for reasons of extenuating circumstance. For example, many of these claims lack required information for eligibility determination from the claimant, employer or both and can be resolved only through the manual process of collecting the needed information. 
Separately, the Department continues to process new claims. In June 2023, L&I received 34,705 claims in its regular workload and distributed UC benefits totaling $130,963,541 to 82,550 eligible claimants. 
In June, L&I served:

  • 61,461 individuals through the UC helpline at 888-313-7284;
  • 9,238 individuals through the UC chat service;
  • 16,435 individuals through email

Since May, UC staff have been answering emails in real time – within 24 hours.
Through the Department’s UC Connect program offering in-person customer service at Pennsylvania CareerLink® locations, L&I served 3,866 individuals in June for a total of 47,528 since the program’s launch in May 2022. 

Recently, the work to improve customer service for UC claimants took a big step forward. In June, L&I implemented an abbreviated process to reopen a claim which reduced the process from about one hour to only 5-15 minutes. Previously, the reopen process progressed in the same way as the initial claim process. Now, if claimants don’t have changes to any of their previously provided information, they can skip ahead directly to the Employment History section. 

L&I reminds UC claimants of their responsibility to file weekly benefit certifications online or by using the department’s touch tone telephone service, called PAT, at 888-255-4728 (en Español 877-888-8104).