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Coronavirus Economy: Many Pennsylvanians Waiting More Than Month For Unemployment Benefits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Well over 1 million Pennsylvanians are unemployed due to the pandemic. Many are still waiting for their benefits to start, five or six weeks after filing claims.

With 1.65 million Pennsylvanians having now filed for unemployment, backlogs have caused many to wait to collect for more than a month.

"I have not been receiving any benefits as of yet," Aisha Johnson said.

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Johnson, who lives in South Philadelphia, has been working to get unemployment since March 13, when she was laid off from her job as a concessions worker at Citizens Bank Park.

"You wake up calling them. It is like, in the morning, the line is busy. Five o'clock in the afternoon, the line is busy. It's the same routine every day," Johnson described.

During a virtual news conference Monday, the state's Labor and Industry Department admitted emails have a 25-day backlog.

Mondays and Tuesdays often see a flood of people calling and an aging system was not equipped for taking claims from people making six digits.

"Our system, being 40 years old, was not designed to take wages higher than $100,000 for the year. I guess back in the late '60s, no one ever imagined someone's salary would be that high," said Susan Dickinson, the policy director for the department's unemployment compensation benefits.

However, officials are making technology upgrades. They also maintain response times are improving and the department also hired additional staff, though the best days to call are Thursdays and Fridays.


And many people, like Kate Payne of West Oak Lane, have received unemployment. Still, several of her friends have not.

"We need help. They have not received any money all month," Payne said.

State officials also say more than $1 billion has been paid out in claims in recent weeks.

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