PA Lawmakers voice frustrations on Gov. Wolf shutdown mandates, unemployment delays

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HARRISBURG (Newsradio 100.1 FM and 1020 KDKA) – Pennsylvania lawmakers voiced frustrations on Tuesday to the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) over the state’s handling of the pandemic, including Gov. Wolf’s shutdowns, unemployment frustrations, and Wolf’s proposed tax increases.

Rep. Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana) told acting secretary of  L&I Jennifer Berrier that Pennsylvanians experienced record employment in February 2020, with 6.1. million Pennsylvanians employed. When Gov. Wolf shut down the state, 1.12 million residents lost their jobs, and only 57% of those jobs were restored by November, leaving 500,000 jobs permanently lost.

Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington) live-called the Unemployment Compensation Call Center to reveal the constant busy signal, showcasing what residents across the commonwealth hear when they try to call the provided unemployment number.

Berrier did not have an answer as to why residents have to spend days waiting for someone to pick up the phone, then wait two-to-nine weeks before receiving a response to a question.

Lawmakers also pressed why the Department of Health and the Governor’s Office failed to communicate with other offices regarding Wolf’s shutdown orders and vaccine distribution. Berrier testified that 27 L&I employee enforcement officers were deputized by the DOH to investigate 400 employers.

“I just find it ironic that the Department of Health, in their lack of communication with almost every other department, did find it necessary to communicate to bring aboard other departments when it came down to bringing the hammer down on more of our small businesses that have been devastated through much of this process,” Rep. Jesse Topper (R-Bedford) said.

Berrier also said she has “not been privy to” the conversations or impact studies on Gov. Wolf’s proposal to increase the personal income tax by 50%, or the impact that would have on small businesses that have been impacted the most by Wolf’s shutdown policies.