Pa. unemployment claims continue to level off; state launches fraud investigation

As of Monday, Pennsylvania surpassed the $10 billion mark of assistance distributed to people who have been laid off or furloughed, due to the pandemic

  • By Ivey DeJesus/PennLive

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For the second week in a row, the numbers of new unemployment compensation claims in Pennsylvania continued to level off after surging amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday state Labor & Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak noted that claims stand at 2.3 million cases since March 15 – slightly higher than last week’s total tally of 2.1 million.

Meanwhile, L&I has launched investigations into possible identify fraud involving even state residents who have not applied for unemployment compensation.

Oleksiak said the department’s anti-fraud division is investigating attempts by scammers to use personal information obtained from sources outside of L&I to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits.

He said no L&I systems or data have been compromised.

“We want to assure everyone, particularly people who have submitted information through the unemployment compensation program that none of the L&I systems or data have been breeched,” Oleksiak said. “This is identity theft from before the coronavirus. Literally none of our system have been breeched.”

Federal law enforcement agencies are part of the investigation effort, he added.

As of Monday, Pennsylvania surpassed the $10 billion mark of assistance distributed to people who have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the coronavirus. That number includes state as well as federal funding sources for emergency pandemic unemployment compensation benefits.

Olesiak noted that the department continues its efforts to upgrade and increase staff. L&I staff have logged more than 90,000 hours in overtime trying to meet the surge in demand and trouble shooting.

He noted that cashing checks or direct depositing funds that were not applied for may be deemed fraud.

Olesiak noted that it’s possible that victims of identity theft may not be aware their identities were previously stolen. He suggested keeping a close eye on personal credit rating.

L&I will be reaching out to PUA claimants via U.S. Postal Service to ensure they have applied and confirm that their personal information has not been compromised.

L&I will hold an online public town hall at 1 p.m., Thursday, May 28. The town hall is open to all members of the public with questions or issues for L&I, although individual cases will likely not be addressed as they would require personal information.

The link for the town hall is here. The listen-only access is available at 833-380-0719.

To email questions, submit them to uctownhall@pa.gov by 11 a.m. Thursday.

L&I officials attribute the leveling off new claims on the fact that a growing number of counties have been partially opened, leading many laid-off or furloughed workers to return to work.

On Friday, with an additional eight counties moving into the yellow phase of the Wolf administration’s plan to reopen the state, 57 counties will be in the yellow phase.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 451 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, raising the statewide total to 68,637. Across Pennsylvania, 5,152 deaths have been tied to the coronavirus.

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