PA Labor And Industry Secretary: It ‘Is Possible’ Some Eligible For Weekly $300 Might Not Get It


On today's program: A federal emergency assistance program for people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic is running out of money well ahead of schedule; voters can choose from multiple ways to cast their ballots this November; and local arts organizations say they’ve been harmed by a ticketing service that’s not holding up its end of the deal.

FEMA’s Lost Wages Assistance Program runs out of funds earlier than expected
(00:00 — 7:10)

The federal Lost Wages Assistance Program was meant to give unemployed Pennsylvanians an additional $300 a week. Those who qualify for the program should be getting their first checks this week, says state Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak.

But the extra payments come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which told states earlier this week that the qualifying period would be August 1 to September 5—not the end of the year, as was hoped.

With the state’s unemployment rate hovering below 14 percent, Oleksiak says many Pennsylvanians will need assistance for a while.

“We are doing all we can to get them the benefits to which they are entitled,” Oleksiak tells The Confluence. “But, we are going to need help from the federal government to continue to provide the level of support we have been providing.”

Because the FEMA-run program is running out of money, some who qualify might not get the extra $300 per week.

“Unfortunately that is possible, that is why we are encouraging everyone who is eligible to apply as quickly as possible,” says Oleksiak.

Information on eligibility requirements and questions about the unemployment process can be found on the state’s unemployment website.

To make your vote count, follow the directions carefully, says county solicitor 
(7:11 — 13:31)

The pandemic introduced a number of complications when it comes to voting. There are various lawsuits and multiple ways for voters to cast their ballots. 


“For November, all 1,300-plus polling places will be open, so if people want to use that option they can,” says Andy Szefi, the Allegheny County solicitor. “Also, for the first time in a general election is the option for mail-in voting—no excuse mail-in voting.”

Szefi says voters who want to be sure their mail-in ballot counts should request and submit their ballot as far in advance of the deadline as possible, and follow the directions on the ballot very carefully.

“Don’t subject your ballot to any kind of challenge, and if you follow those instructions there shouldn’t be any issues with it,” he says.  

The deadline to register to vote in Allegheny County is October 19, 2002, and the deadline to request a mail-in ballot is before 5 p.m. on October 27, 2020.

Pittsburgh arts groups say online ticketing service failed to pay money owed
(13:33 — 17:48)

Many small and mid-sized nonprofit groups use online ticketing agencies. But 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll reports arts organizations in Pittsburgh say they are among hundreds harmed when one such service didn’t uphold its end of the deal. 


The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.