Action News Troubleshooters: Getting to the bottom of your unemployment frustrations

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- At a time when delays are devastating for so many families, the Troubleshooters are getting many complaints about long delays in unemployment and the inability to get answers.

Nancy Beal and Robert Lucas are both unemployed right now.

"Before the pandemic, I was working in hospitals, and I walked around playing for patients family and staff," said Beal who lives in Levittown, but works in New Jersey.

Unfortunately, the role of harp therapist is not considered an essential healthcare role so Beal was laid off and filed for unemployment in New Jersey on March 22.

Building it Better Together: Pandemic Unemployment Crisis

"A while after that I received a debit card in the mail that had zero amount of money on it," she said.

Her status on the New Jersey Unemployment website showed as pending.

"Now it turns out because I'm an independent contractor I'm not eligible for normal employment, but I am eligible for the pandemic unemployment assistance," she said.

New Jersey announced on Thursday that it will begin processing claims of self-employed workers and independent contractors. Meantime, similar stories of delays and the inability to get answers are coming out of Pennsylvania.

Lucas said after he got laid off he filed for Pennsylvania unemployment on March 18th

"I still haven't heard anything from unemployment at all whatsoever," he said. "No PIN, nothing."

Lucas said he tried calling the unemployment office 150 times in one day alone.
"And unfortunately the unemployment system has not been working for them, so we've got people waiting six, seven weeks, haven't heard a thing about whether they're going to get unemployment or are they eligible," said John Dodd, who is the Director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project.

The PUP is calling on Pennsylvania to expand phone hours and increase phone lines and workers to meet the demand.

"The CARES Act provided a very generous unemployment benefit for people to keep them going," Dodd said. "It's just not getting paid to thousands and thousands of people right now."

The state said it has taken steps to improve customer service. It said it has nearly 900 Labor and Industry staff working on the Unemployment Compensation program with 500 being reassigned from other agencies to help.

It said 70 experienced U.C. retirees have returned to work, there have been more than 250 new hires and more than 110,000 calls are being handled by automated virtual phone assistant.

The department said the best days to try to call in are on Thursdays and Fridays.

And here's what the state said regarding PINs: allow at least three weeks to get your PIN. If you don't get one after three weeks, then request a new one online.

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