In This Edition:
Senator Browne to Host Special COVID-19 Telephone Town Hall
Sen. Browne will be hosting a special COVID-19 Telephone Town Hall for constituents of the 16th Senatorial District on Wednesday, April 15 at 3:30 p.m. He will be joined on the call by a panel of local experts, each providing information on the COVID-19 pandemic and resources available to help those affected. Panel includes:
Constituents will receive a phone call invite on their landline telephone on Wednesday, April 15 at 3:30 p.m. asking if they would like to participate in the live call. Individuals can also sign up to receive the call on their cell phones by vising Sen. Browne’s website: https://www.senatorbrowne.com/tele-town-hall/
The Telephone Town Hall format allows the community to participate in the discussion without the need to leave their homes.
Information Available for Claimants Struggling With Unemployment Compensation System
The spike in the number of applicants in the Unemployment Compensation system has created longer response times and a large backlog of cases that sometimes take weeks to resolve. A number of services are available online to help resolve some questions regarding the system.
Claimants who have filed an initial claim in mid-March who have not received a PIN should contact the Department of Labor and Industry as soon as possible. The same guidance applies to individuals who tried to re-open an existing claim in mid-March and are still listed as “inactive” when they try to file a bi-weekly claim.
If you meet one of these criteria or have other questions or problems that are not covered on the department’s website, please feel free to contact me for assistance.
Expanded Unemployment Benefit Payments Begin This Week
The federal CARES Act provides expanded unemployment benefits of $600 per week to eligible claimants. These payments are in addition to regular benefits provided through the unemployment system. The Department of Labor and Industry reports that these payments should arrive by Wednesday of this week for eligible claimants who received their regular payments for the week ending April 4.
Claimants who have not yet received a payment will receive the extra $600 per week in the days following receipt of their first payment. An additional 13 weeks of benefits will be available to claimants who have been affected by the pandemic.
More information on the state’s efforts to implement the provisions of the CARES Act is available on a new website created by the Department of Labor and Industry.
Benefits Available Soon for Contractors, Self-Employed Workers
The CARES Act temporarily makes benefits available to other individuals who are not normally eligible, such as people who are self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers. However, these individuals cannot apply through the current unemployment system; the federal government requires the state to create a new platform to provide these benefits.
The Department of Labor and Industry expects to have the new system up and running within the next two weeks. Claimants will be able to receive backdated payments to January 27 or the first week that they were unable to work due to the coronavirus, whichever is later. More information about the new program is available on the department’s frequently asked questions page.
Utility Providers, Other Companies Provide Assistance Programs
The COVID-19 crisis has affected millions of Americans across the country. Most major utility companies are offering special assistance programs to help families who have been impacted by the pandemic. Some of the programs include delayed or partial payments, hardship funds, budget billing and other programs to help customers.
More information about the different kinds of programs and services to help utility customers is available on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s website.
Individuals and families who are struggling to pay bills during this pandemic should reach out to their utility companies, mortgage/rental companies, credit card companies and other lenders to see what programs may be available to help.
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