More than half a million Pennsylvanians set to lose unemployment benefits

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More than half a million Pennsylvanians will stop receiving pandemic related unemployment benefits after Dec. 26 as federal gridlock prevents CARES Act programs from being extended. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry is urging residents to make the shift to state assistance programs.

“Pennsylvanians receiving PUA or PEUC payments need to be aware that they will not be able to file a claim next week and should begin preparing now to seek the necessities they will need through other means,” said Jennifer Berrier, acting secretary of the Pa. Department of Labor and Industry, or L&I, in a release. “I urge current PUA and PEUC claimants to apply for additional assistance through programs outside of L&I as soon as possible to prevent their families from reaching an emergency or dangerous situation.”

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs were both created through the federal CARES Act.

PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment payments for those ineligible for regular unemployment benefits and for those who have exhausted those benefits. PEUC provides another 13 weeks of benefits.

According to research conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, Pennsylvania is one of the states with the most to gain from additional pandemic unemployment assistance. The study found that the programs could actually “create or save 5.1 million jobs” in 2021 by helping “workers and their families keep their heads above water while breathing necessary life into the economic recovery.” Using their model, Pennsylvania’s job share would increase by 5.7% — which equates to 265,000 jobs gained. With the CARES Act set to expire, Pennsylvanians using those programs to make ends meet — will have to look elsewhere.

“The reason they’re expiring is because we’re still waiting on the federal CARES Act extension to be passed,” said Sarah DeSantis, L&I’s press secretary. “It’s tied up in the federal government right now and so we can’t continue making payments in those programs until that program gets renewed through the federal government.”

And even if the programs are signed back into law, immediate help is unlikely.

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