COVID-19 DOH Testing Lab

Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Health

Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Health

Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Health

Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Health

Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Health

Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Kerry Pollard performs a manual extraction of the coronavirus inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories on March 6.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which pays an extra $600 per week to Pennsylvanians receiving jobless benefits, will end in three weeks on July 25.

Could Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits be extended?

“It’s a federal program, so that would be up to the federal government,” said Jerry Oleksiak, secretary of the state Department of Labor & Industry Wednesday.

He did not rule out that possibility, but acknowledged he is unaware of any proposed federal legislation to continue that program.

Because of that uncertainty, Oleksiak and state Human Services secretary Teresa Miller conducted a virtual news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss other assistance that may be available to residents once FPUC ends.

Miller said DHS administers programs that may help families that have lost income because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They include the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program's (LIHEAP) Recovery Crisis Program, which covers utility costs for those who are financially eligible, and the Emergency Assistance Program, in which qualifying families are eligible for a one-time payment.

Other programs are: Medicaid; the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

To apply for the funds, visit www.state.compass.pa.us.

“We encourage people to apply if our programs can help,” Miller said. “Unless the (FPUC program) is extended, people could be increasingly uncertain circumstances.”

FPUC was created out of the federal CARES Act in late March, as the coronavirus was gaining momentum across the nation. Pennsylvania Labor & Industry has distributed about $10 billion in benefits through that program over the past three months.

The news conference took place the week L&I’s Extended Benefits program kicked in 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.

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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