PENNSYLVANIA'S #1 WEEKLY NEWSPAPER • locally owned since 1854

Having trouble with unemployment claims? Here are 6 tips to help solve your problem

Posted

If you are trying to receive unemployment compensation, Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak offered six tips recently to help Pennsylvanians more quickly receive their benefits.

There has been a historic surge in people seeking unemployment compensation in Pennsylvania because of fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Since mid-March, nearly 1.7 million Pennsylvanians have filed for regular unemployment compensation, and new federal laws made big changes to increase payments for many people and made other workers eligible for those benefits for the first time.

Gov. Tom Wolf has said the system is simply not designed for those types of numbers.

“A little over a month ago, life changed drastically for all of us due to the difficult but necessary mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania,” Oleksiak said. “I know this has been hard for businesses and workers, many of whom have never had to file for UC benefits before. We have made progress in meeting the historic demand for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania but know more must be done. I share your frustration and want to help you navigate our complex UC system more easily.”

More than $3.6 billion in benefits has been paid to claimants — nearly $2.7 billion from regular unemployment compensation and $911 million from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (extra $600 per week), according to the department.

The department says it has taken these to improve customer service: 

• Nearly 900 L&I staff working on the unemployment compensation program are teleworking — with 500 of these employees being reassigned from other agencies to help.

• 70 experienced unemployment compensation retirees have returned to work.

• More than 250 new hires will bolster the system.

• Over 110,000 calls handled by automated virtual phone assistant IBM Watson.

Tips to apply

Oleksiak said L&I is receiving extremely high daily call volumes and many people are struggling to reach call centers.

“Many answers are available on our website. This will allow our staff to focus on people who do not have internet access, require translation services, or have an issue with a claim,” he said.

Before calling the service center, the department recommends the following:

Review COVID-19-related FAQs: Answers to many questions are in the Frequently Asked Questions section of L&I’s website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter

Check your claims status online: If you have your Personal Identification Number (PIN), enter it along with your Social Security number to check your claims status online here

Know what to do if you haven’t received your debit card: If you haven’t received your U.S. Bank ReliaCard debit card, log into your UC account online and verify your mailing address. Debit cards are valid for three years. If you already have a debit card from a previous claim, or reopen an existing claim, you will not receive a new debit card. You will continue to use the original debit card. If your card has been lost or stolen, call U.S. Bank at 888-233-5916. Contact the PA Treasury for basic information about the debit card or direct deposit questions at 877-869-1956. 

Apply online now: Need to file a new claim and want to know if you’re eligible? Don’t delay by asking us. Submit your claim and let our staff determine your eligibility. 

Wait at least three weeks before requesting a new PIN: If it’s been more than three weeks since you filed an initial claim and you haven’t yet received your PIN, you may request a new one here

Other ways to reach us: If you have a genuine issue with your claim, there are several ways to contact UC staff.

Other tools

• Virtual assistant — Call 877-978-1295 to have a UC virtual assistant powered by Watson answer frequently asked questions at any time. This system does not connect to the UC Customer Service Center staff and only provides virtual assistance.

  LiveChat — Call 888-313-7284 for a secure 6-digit LiveChat code to reach UC staff Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  Email — For claims questions, email uchelp@pa.gov and include your full name as it appears on your claim (including suffix used) and the last four digits of your Social Security number. Get email wait response times here. The department will respond to emails in the order they are received, so sending duplicates will not result in a quicker response and will cause delays. 

• General contact form — To make a general comment on UC services, or if you have questions not covered by information on www.uc.pa.gov, use this form

• Pennsylvania Teleclaims — This automated self-service system can be used to file biweekly UC claims, access specific benefit payment information, or learn about UC without needing to talk to a person. You can also use PAT to request/change federal withholding tax, get UC-1099G information, and change your PIN. For English, call 888-255-4728. For Spanish, call 877-888-8104.

• TTY Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing — Call 888-334-4046 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

• Videophone service for ASL users — Call 717-704-8474 Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. Sign language is the only means of communication provided at this number. 

• If you have tried other methods to find your answer without success, try the UC Service Call Center phone, call 888-313-7284 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to reach UC staff. The best time to try calling the UC service center is Thursdays and Fridays, according to the department. Be prepared for heavy call volumes, busy signals, and potential delays in getting through.