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Pa. unemployment offices increase staff, battle massive unemployment scam

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry has identified more than 4,000 fraudulent claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Since March 15, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) has paid out more than $32 billion in unemployment benefits.

Some people, who never filed a claim, are receiving unemployment checks. It is a sign that scammers are still trying to capitalize on the Covid-19 pandemic. DLI has identified more than 4,000 fraudulent claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits.

“By identifying those claims, we’ve prevented more than $44 million from reaching the fraudsters who are trying to have access to that,” said Jerry Oleksiak, DLI Secretary.

Many people are still waiting for their unemployment benefits. Between March 15 and June 27, 94 percent of people who filed for unemployment benefits have either received payments or were deemed ineligible for benefits.

The remaining six percent of claims could not be processed by the automated system and are under review by individual DLI staff. A massive, nationwide unemployment scam could be one reason for a delay in payments.

“It’s possible, if the individuals are on PUA, that perhaps they had answered a question incorrectly or they are part of a fraud filter and we have to verify their identity,” explained Susan Dickinson, Director of the Office of Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy.

RELATED: Pa. Department of Labor and Industry has paid out $14 billion in unemployment benefits

The department has increased staff by 122 percent and employees have put in nearly 230,000 hours of overtime since early March.

If you suddenly stopped receiving unemployment benefits, it could be because of a quarter change, said Dickinson. DLI staff had to stop PEUC or EB claims to verify whether claimants are eligible for regular unemployment compensation.

RELATED: FOX43 Finds Out: why your unemployment payments may be on hold

“Staff would be checking to see if they qualify for a regular UC claim before having them continue on that claim,” added Dickinson. “As soon as they are verified as not being eligible for regular UC, then they’ll be permitted to continue on the claim that they’re on. However, if they are eligible for regular UC, they’ll be contacted to file a regular UC claim and their extension claim will be stopped.”

If you return to work for a short period of time then are unemployed again, you will have to reopen your claim. You can find more information on how to do that in the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Handbook.