Dec. 18, 2020

HARRISBURG – With thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians still waiting for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to process their unemployment compensation claims, House Labor and Industry Committee Chairman Jim Cox (R-Berks/Lancaster) this week was dismayed to learn some department staff are focused on enforcing COVID-19 restrictions on employers rather than helping unemployed workers.

“I think out-of-work Pennsylvanians would hope that every person available at the Department of Labor and Industry would be working to process the backlog of unemployment compensation claims,” Cox said. “Getting the unemployment compensation money in the hands of these families so they can buy groceries would seem to me to be more important than enforcing mask-wearing orders.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry issued a news release Monday outlining COVID-19 enforcement actions for the week of Dec. 4 to 11. According to the release, L&I received and processed 124 complaints that week.

The department’s news release said it “is assisting the Department of Health (DOH) in investigating employee complaints that their employers are violating COVID safety orders.” 

Cox noted he and his colleagues were told by Labor and Industry officials that part of the backlog has been caused because some unemployment compensation claims and cases of suspected fraud require intensive manpower and investigations.

“We’re now learning the department is evidently using investigators to pursue COVID-19 violations instead of focusing on unemployment compensation claims,” Cox said.

In his role as chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee, Cox held multiple hearings in recent months to investigate the backlog of unemployment compensation cases.

“We were told there essentially was an all-hands-on-deck mentality at the department to help these people who are still waiting on their unemployment checks,” Cox said. “Now we’re learning the department is focusing time and resources on enforcing the COVID-19 orders put in place by the governor and secretary of the Department of Health.”

Cox believes the department’s primary focus should be on helping workers who lost their jobs and have not been able to access the unemployment compensation benefits they deserve.

“I think unemployed Pennsylvanians would want Department of Labor and Industry staff focusing on processing their unemployment compensation claims rather than enforcing COVID-19 mandates,” Cox said.

Representative Jim Cox
129th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives