Unemployment compensation: Why say three weeks if it's going to take 12?

Jessica Miller
Mount Wolf
FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2020, file photo, a help wanted sign hangs on the door of a Target store in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Hundreds of thousands of Americans likely applied for unemployment benefits last week, a high level of job insecurity that reflects economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak. Economists expect that 850,000 people sought jobless aid, down from 884,000 the week before, according to a survey by the data firm FactSet. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

I filed an unemployment claim due to being terminated from my long-term job after a non-job-related medical injury. After filing, I read my Unemployment Handbook cover-to-cover so I would know exactly what to expect because the financial health of my family depended on it.

All communication received from the Unemployment Office stated I would receive my first payment within three weeks. Three weeks went by, no payment. I figured things were delayed given the pandemic. I checked the Unemployment website, sent a message through my Unemployment Compensation portal, and checked the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry social media. Everything stated a three-week wait.

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After eight weeks of zero income I decided to call the Unemployment Office. I repeatedly called dozens of times over a two-week period until finally getting through to the UC Office. The rep gruffly stated there is a 12-plus-week wait for those who were terminated.

But how is there a 12-plus-week wait? All communication stated only a three-week wait.

My question is, if it takes 12-plus weeks to process a claim, why doesn’t the UC Office set that expectation from the beginning? This lack of communication is unacceptable. I understand this is an unprecedented time, but communication is vital for individuals who are waiting for their unemployment funds.

The UC website has an alert about tax forms. Why can’t one be added about the potential three- to four-month wait? Seems like a simple fix to set the expectation, lower call volume, and alleviate frustration for all parties.

And after fixing the communication gap, start looking for ways to solve this backlog. Three to four months is too long to go without income, making unemployment compensation ineffective.