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Pennsylvania To Resume Work-Search Rule For Jobless Benefits

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania will resume work search requirements in July for hundreds of thousands of people receiving unemployment compensation, a top Wolf administration official said Monday.

Gov. Tom Wolf's acting labor and industry secretary, Jennifer Berrier, told a state House of Representatives committee hearing the requirement will resume July 18, meaning people claiming jobless benefits will have to search for work during the previous week.

She also said a work registration requirement will resume in September. The requirements have been waived by Wolf under his emergency disaster authority invoked during COVID-19 pandemic.

Republicans in Pennsylvania’s GOP-controlled Legislature have pushed Wolf to reinstate the requirements, and Rep. Torrin Ecker, R-Cumberland, urged Berrier to resume the work-search requirement earlier than July.

Employers in Pennsylvania and across the country say they are struggling to find enough workers and put the blame on jobless benefits that are padded with a $300-a-week federal pandemic benefit.

In at least a dozen Republican-led states, governors are rejecting the $300-a-week in federal aid. Meanwhile, several states are offering or considering offering cash incentives to get people off jobless benefits and back into the work force.

Wolf’s office said it has not found that the extra cash benefit or the suspension of the work-search requirement to be primary factors in a “perceived labor shortage.”

Certain industries may have difficulty hiring workers because, for instance, some parents have children learning at home or some people are waiting for a second vaccine dose before returning to work, his office has said.

Some 750,000 people in Pennsylvania receiving jobless benefits either through a state or federal program were also receiving the extra $300 a week, according to the Department of Labor and Industry from mid-May.

The requirement will affect all unemployment programs, including unemployment compensation and its extension, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the department said.

The work-search requirement means people receiving unemployment benefits must apply for two jobs and complete one work-search activity from an approved list of seven options each week, such as attending a job fair, take a pre-employment test or post a resume or search for jobs in the state's PA CareerLink system.

Even with the suspension of work search, Pennsylvanians who turn down a suitable job offer or recall to work are not eligible for unemployment benefits, the Wolf administration said.