“I thought two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. Never did I imagine it would be 45 days without unemployment compensation,” said Therese Brady.
The wait has been agonizing for Brady, a single mom and laid off nurse who's had to break away from homeschooling her kids each day to hop on the phone or computer and try one more time to make contact with the unemployment office.
“They have a video chat. Every time I go on it disconnects you. And you start to wonder why it’s taking so long. No one to answer your questions. So it’s very distressing,” she said.
Like most states, Pennsylvania was not ready for the unprecedented Depression-level crush of people who suddenly lost their jobs, people like Steve Smith, a school bus driver.
“They have to be doing their jobs because the line is constantly busy. So it’s not as if they’re not talking to people. It’s just impossible to get through. I don’t know what else to do,” Smith said.
Since mid-March the Pennsylvania unemployment office has hired 120 new staffers, brought back 70 retirees, and launched an automated virtual phone assistant.
A spokesman said approximately 70% of new eligible claimants have received a payment. But there’s still a long way to go.
So the wait continues for hundreds of thousands of increasingly nervous Pennsylvanians.