Killion Calls for Unemployment Benefits for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Shutdowns

Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester and Delaware) wrote Governor Tom Wolf and PA Secretary of Labor Jerry Oleksiak seeking clarification regarding the eligibility of hourly workers financially impacted by mandatory community mitigation orders to receive unemployment compensation (UC) benefits and urging them to take any executive action necessary to provide such benefits.

“I commend you and your administration for the steps you have taken to protect the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 crisis,” wrote Killion. “With mandatory closures implemented, countless hourly workers in the Commonwealth have lost their ability to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families. We must do all in its power to limit the negative financial impact on hardworking Pennsylvanians.”

Specifically, Killion requested “the Department of Labor and Industry clarify the eligibility of hourly workers affected by mandatory community mitigation closures to receive unemployment compensation (UC) benefits” and called on Gov. Wolf and Secretary Oleksiak “to take all possible executive and administrative actions required to empower the Department of Labor and Industry to broaden their guidelines on eligibility for UC benefits to cover as many affected Pennsylvanians as possible.”

Killion’s letter follows the March 12, 2020 release of new guidelines from the United States Department of Labor giving the states flexibility in administering their unemployment insurance programs to assist those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Under the guidance, federal law permits significant flexibility for states to amend their requirements for UI benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19. For example, federal law allows states to pay benefits where: (1) An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work; (2) An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and (3) An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member. In addition, federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.

“The suburban counties are the epicenter of this public health crisis in Pennsylvania,” noted Killion. “Chester, Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia is the economic engine of the state. While our primary focus must be on mitigating the spread of COVID-19, it is incumbent on policymakers to do all in our power to directly assist workers impacted by required closures.”