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Return Of Unemployment Payments For 400,000 Pennsylvanians Marred By System Crashes And Error Messages

HARRISBURG (KDKA) -- The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry announced Friday that payments through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program are resuming.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance helps workers who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and do not qualify for other unemployment compensation. These type of workers include gig workers, freelancers and self-employed workers.

People could begin filing again to claim an additional 11 weeks of money. Right now there are about 400,000 Pennsylvanians relying on these benefits.

But so many people hopped online Friday morning, it crashed the system. To call it a rocky start would be an understatement.

The Department of Labor and Industry used Facebook to try to calm people down, blaming the error message on too many people trying to use the site at once.

One single father told KDKA's Meghan Schiller, "what did they expect?" He says he's out of work and beyond desperate.

The system crashing and giving an error message was just enough to push people over the edge.

So when Labor and Industry posted on Facebook asking people to refresh and try again later, people didn't like that option.

As for the people who got the error message, should they file a new claim or keep the new one? KDKA's Meghan Schiller asked State Senator Camera Bartolotta.

"If you no longer had any claim, if your claim expired before Dec. 26 or if you missed filing the, you know, a week leading up to Dec. 26 or for any reason, you must reopen your claim before you can proceed. Don't file a new claim, all right? All the instructions are right there. It's pretty straightforward. Just take your time. And know that your weeks start on Sunday, not on a Friday," said Bartolotta.

She said we're dealing with an old system that needed replaced a long time ago, so things should get better. She said there's no need to panic, but get your claim in by this upcoming Friday.

"Since the federal legislation for the new CARES Act extension was unveiled, L&I's dedicated team has been working tirelessly to update our processing systems," said Acting Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier. "We know that more than 400,000 Pennsylvanians and their families are relying on these PUA benefits to get through this terrible pandemic and have worked as quickly as possible to complete the implementation and resume payments."

Eligible workers can begin filing for the additional 11 claim weeks beginning today, January 22, 2021.

The Dept. of Labor & Industry says that claims will be filed using the same process that was previously used.

When filing, you will be able to file claims for the weeks of:

  • January 2, 2021
  • January 9, 2021
  • January 16, 2021
  • January 23, 2021

The Department also says that filing must be done by January 29, 2021.

If this deadline is missed, an email must be sent to to request backdating.

If you did not file claims for the week ending December 26, 2020, you must reopen your claim before you can proceed with filing for the previously listed weeks.

The Department of Labor & Industry clarified that if you a new, first-time PUA claimant opening a claim in 2021, you cannot yet file.

For information on unemployment programs in Pennsylvania, click here.

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