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'Rent Is Still Due': Demonstrators In Philadelphia Demanding Pennsylvania Fix Unemployment Benefits System

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Lockdown orders in Pennsylvania forced millions of people out of work, and some say they still haven't received their unemployment benefits. They're blaming the system for the delay, and on Wednesday, they took their concerns to the governor's office.

"I'm going to be 67 years old. My name is Joel Fass," Fass said. "I'm from Brooklyn, New York. I'm a Jewish American that plays largely Black music."

The sounds of jazz filled the streets of Philadelphia once again. Fass has been playing here at Broad and Walnut for a tip for the past few months.

"It's been a horrible year. What can anyone say?" he said.

On Wednesday, his guitar was drowned out by other out-of-work musicians demanding unemployment benefits.

"We need relief for thousands of people that are out of work and have been out of work for over a year," Jarred Antonacci with Philadelphia Musicians' Union said.

The protest was held outside of Gov. Tom Wolf's office. It was organized by the Philadelphia Musicians' Union and the Philadelphia Unemployment Project. Of their 700 members, 600 are still out of work.

"When you have absolutely no work and no chance of getting back to work anytime soon, the bills still show up," Antonacci said. "Rent is still due."

A year into the pandemic, in Pennsylvania, there are still 200,000 unfulfilled claims.

People say the system is unresponsive and no one answers the phone. The issue was the subject of a Pennsylvania House labor hearing Wednesday morning.

Rep. Joseph Hohenstein represents parts of Philadelphia County.

"Our constituents, this has been their No. 1 issue for the last year," Hohenstein said.

There is a bill in the statehouse right now that would address many of these concerns. One of the most important is that it would increase the number of people working in customer service.

Acting Labor Secretary Jennifer Berrier told lawmakers the Department of Labor and Industry only has 500 full-time customer service employees. She says they need to double that. A move Hohenstein agrees with.

"The people answering the phones, they do want to help, but there are just not enough of them," Hohenstein said.

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