HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — In a Webex press conference on Monday, September 21, the Department of Labor and Industry announced that it will temporarily delay payments for new applicants filing for unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
Applications for the PUA program are continuing to be accepted, but new payouts are being postponed until the new identity verification methods are implemented.
This announcement comes after the department discovered a suspicious surge in applications late last week, going from the average of 5,000 per day to 20,000. The source of most applications were found to be fraudulent and from out of state.
The department will thus be putting in additional anti-fraud and identity verification measures in place before completing payment claims for new applicants.
The Department of Labor and Industry stressed that it understands the importance of PUA claims to Pennsylvania families. “We know the PUA program is a lifeline for many families and we want these Pennsylvanians to be able to access support as quickly as possible fduring this time of hardship,” said L&I Secretary Jerry Oleksiak, “however, we have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure taxpayer money is being spent appropriately.”
Those who already have an open claim will not be effected—but new applicants will have to wait until more identity verification measures are put in place.
The department has paid out more than $5 billion to PUA claimants and $28 billion to recipients of all unemployment compensation programs since the start of the pandemic.
Pennsylvanians who believe their identity was stolen and used to fraudulently apply for unemployment benefits can report the theft. Pennsylvanians who have received unemployment benefits they did not apply for should not use the funds and instead follow the directions on returning them.