HARRISBURG, Pa. — In partnership with One Fair Wage, an organization benefiting low-paid workers, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro spoke to concerns not just with our lowest paid workers struggling for work, but for all of those impacted by fewer paychecks in the bank in Pennsylvania.
Those who spoke in the town hall noted the struggles they have, believing they are unfairly classified in the current unemployment system either as independent contractors or in other categories, making them ineligible for unemployment.
“We’re all worried about bills. We’re getting deferred rent, deferred utility because we have to pay it back," Lisa Guerrero, a bartender in Pittsburgh said.
Uber Driver Dave O'Brien of Philadelphia received $224 in sick pay from Uber after being exposed to COVID-19 from an Uber rider, but noted he still can't drive.
"I can’t go back out. I’m taking care of my 80-year old mother and I don’t want to kill her," O'Brien said.
While those specific concerns were hard to address for the attorney general, Shapiro acknowledged their difficulties and spoke to what the department has done so far to mitigate their woes during the crisis.
"I will not allow anyone in this time of crisis to take advantage of another Pennsylvanian," Shapiro said.
Earlier in the crisis, the Office of the Attorney General created a new division, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Nancy Walker, to mitigate the long-term fallout of COVID-19. The department, establishing hotlines for reporting price gouging, threats of evictions and utility shut off and more.
In partnership with the Pennsylvania Apartment Association, the department reached an agreement to not allow any Pennsylvanian to be evicted through July 15th.
"They [Pennsylvanians] cannot be evicted during this crisis for the duration of the disaster declaration," Shapiro said.
Furthermore, under the recently-signed Pennsylvania Care Package program, Shapiro has reached an agreement with PNC Bank and approximately ten others to ease the pain on those who cannot make regular payments during the crisis.
"90-days where you don't pay your mortgage. 90-day auto and consumer loan forgiveness. 90-days without those annoying fees. 90-days where you don't report to a credit agency. 60-days on stoppages of foreclosures and auto repossessions," Shapiro said.
As of April 8th, banks participating in the program include Citizens Bank, First Commonwealth Bank, Fulton Bank, OceanFirst Bank, WSFS Bank, and Dollar Bank. Attorney General Shapiro claimed more than ten banks are involved. For more information, talk to your local branch bank or contact the Office of the Attorney General.
Still, the Office of the Attorney General did not overlook the statistics. 283,000 Pennsylvanians applied for unemployment last week, with 1.1 million applications total since the crisis started, according to Shapiro.
"That’s one-sixth of our entire work force. Some will come back, many forced to look in other directions and pushed into jobs without benefits," Shapiro said.
Providing the reasoning of the aforementioned new division headed by Deputy Attorney General Walker, Attorney General Shapiro noted that mitigation factor for the future.
“To be able to focus on immediate issues and long term changes in the market place whether you drive for Uber or an established company that provides benefits," Shapiro said.
For information on how to report threats to your housing, utilities and more, you can head to the website of the Office of the Attorney General. You can find a full updating list of banks participating in the PA Care Package program there as well.