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For some unemployed Pennsylvanians, relief is ahead.

The state Labor & Industry’s Extended Benefits program kicks in this week for individuals who have exhausted their regular unemployment compensation and federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Those claimants are eligible for nine to 13 weeks of extended pay, at the same weekly benefit rate they had received, but for half as many weeks as they were financially eligible for previously.

“We’re looking forward to starting the new EB program,” said Susan Dickinson, UC benefits policy director for L&I, Tuesday during the department’s weekly virtual news conference. She and L&I secretary Jerry Oleksiak provided an update on Pennsylvania’s jobless picture as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Fraud was another focus during the briefing, and not just the investigation of what occurred Memorial Day weekend, when out-of-state scammers made thousands of fraudulent UC claims through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program administered in Pennsylvania. The state’s system was not breached, but the secretary again advised claimants to check their credit ratings.

Claimants are susceptible to telephone calls from scammers posing as L&I staff, Dickinson said.

“We do not ask for any full personal information, like a Social Security number of a PIN,” she said of the agencies procedures. “We don’t charge fees for processing claims. We don’t ask people to send checks – unless they are checks to be returned to the L&I building.”

To guard against phone fraud, she recommended claimants save numbers from L&I’s two toll-free lines, then create a contact, assuring that a call from one of those numbers is valid.

Dickinson said the UC Trust Fund is holding up well as of this week.

“We’ve not had to borrow (money),” she said. “We’ve had projections that we may have to borrow in the fall, but we’re not sure.”

Oleksiak again updated the ever-growing volume of UC statistics. Since March 15, he said, the department has paid $21.5 billion in unemployment benefits, $9.6 billion through traditional UC and $9.6 billion through the Federal Pandemic UC program. About $2.2 billion has been paid through PUA.

L&I will have its sixth weekly town hall at 1 p.m. Thursday. To participate, online or by telephone, visit https://access.live/PAlabor or call 833-380-0719.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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