Barbara Presseisen, Philadelphia
Extra efforts to help the jobless
I became unemployed about three years ago, and finally ran out of unemployment compensation in the spring of 2011 ("Helping jobless reach a human," Sunday). After searching fruitlessly for a full-time job, I started working part time for a school bus company in May of that year. Of course, when summer comes, there is no work, so you receive no pay.
I applied for unemployment, was approved for about $190 a week, and I began submitting the biweekly claims online. I was also reporting other part-time income I was receiving, for charter work for the bus company and for acting as a personal valet for a blind woman.
I received one check for $96 at the beginning of this time, as my occasional part-time work offset the full amount for which I was eligible. I continued filing my claims but received no more checks through the summer.
I started calling the 800 number around the third week of having received no more money, calling many times, but received a busy signal every time. The summer passed, and I had a stack of unpaid bills that was getting pretty high. In desperation, I contacted my congressman, Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), by e-mail. His assistant, Julia Lake, called me the next day and gave me the name of Ethan Baldwin, an assistant to State Rep. Gordon Denlinger (R., Lancaster). I called Ethan, told him my plight, and the very next day a person from the unemployment compensation department called me. We straightened out the whole thing in about 15 minutes.
I want to sing the praises of Lake and Baldwin, who got through the steel wall of the unemployment office and obtained for me more than $700 in back money.
Richard A. Florio, Honey Brook
Truth about the system
Here is the truth about the state's unemployment compensation system: The recession, $30 million in funding cuts from the Obama administration, and the Rendell administration's failed unemployment compensation policies left us with a mess. These failed policies resulted in even more calls to resolve hastily and erroneously processed claims.
Gov. Corbett is simultaneously fixing a broken system while continuing to serve claimants. In August, the system processed more than 95,000 first-time claims. That same month, more than 1.3 million Pennsylvanians who filed continuing claims received timely payments.
Our phone and online systems are constantly monitored for ways to improve and best serve the public. More than 970 employees work full time to serve Pennsylvania's unemployed, and from July to September we reduced phone wait times by more than an hour. Updates have also been made to our online system, and we continue to make these changes on a regular basis.
The governor is also making reforms to give Pennsylvanians better access to real employment: 30,000 benefit recipients have signed up for www.jobgateway.pa.gov, which provides access to work-search services, and the Keystone Works program offers on-the-job training opportunities to help people prepare for a new job while still receiving their benefits.
Gov. Corbett is committed to fostering a robust economy that creates jobs and opportunities for Pennsylvanians to enter or return to career-focused employment.
Julia K. Hearthway, secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Harrisburg