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Unemployment benefits application. Photo: Getty Images.
Unemployment benefits application. Photo: Getty Images.

What to know if you are to be eligible for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania

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As Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has declined to about 7.4% — one percentage point higher than the long-term average — the state has made several changes to those still receiving unemployment benefits.

Starting in July, Pennsylvania will resume its work search requirement for eligible unemployment benefit recipients, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) announced on May 24.

This announcement will affect all unemployment programs, including Unemployment Compensation (UC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). 

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania peaked at 16.2% in April 2020 and steadily declined each month until October 2020. Since then, the unemployment rate has fluctuated between 7% and 7.4%.

"The declining unemployment rate is a sign that Pennsylvania's economy continues to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For individuals in harder-hit industries, the federal PEUC program will provide assistance as businesses continue to recover," Berrier said. 

The PEUC will continue to be available for those eligible until the week ending September 4. 

Beginning July 18, individuals receiving unemployment benefits will need to certify each week that they fulfilled the work search requirement from the previous week. Fulfilling the requirement means applying for two jobs and participating in one work search activity.

“PA CareerLink locations across the state are ready to provide high quality, individualized assistance to out-of-work Pennsylvanians as more displaced workers begin the work search process," said Berrier.

According to the PA Department of Labor & Industry, eligible work search activities are:

  • Attending a job fair
  • Searching positions posted on the PA CareerLink system or Internet job banks
  • Creating or posting a resume in the PA CareerLink system or posting a resume in other resume-posting services
  • Contacting colleagues, former co-workers or other individuals in similar professions or occupations to make known your availability for employment or obtain information about available positions, prospective employers or other employment opportunities.
  • Utilizing an employment agency, employment registry or school placement service
  • Taking a civil service test or other pre-employment test
  • Participating in a program or activity offered through the PA CareerLink system.

Those living outside of Pennsylvania are eligible to participate in these activities offered by their state employment service. 

"As more Pennsylvanians become vaccinated and our case count continues to decline, workers can more safely return to the workforce," said Berrier.

The announcement of the resumption of the work search requirement comes just over a week after the state ended the Extended Benefits (EB) program, which took effect on May 16. 

The EB program provided an additional $300 benefit payable to qualified workers. According to L&I, Pennsylvania’s EB program has paid nearly $496 million to eligible individuals since it began on May 3.

This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.

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