As elected officials on the state and federal levels debate possibly extending enhanced unemployment benefits – including calls from some lawmakers to continue the additional federal $600 weekly payment – the PA Chamber issued a statement cautioning that as businesses reopen, lawmakers must carefully balance efforts to restart the economy and get individuals back to work with the overall public health. The Columbia Montour Chamber Board of Directors is supporting a U.S. Senate plan which would provide an additional weekly payment of $200 through September, then be adjusted by state to provide 70% of base wages.
PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr pointed out that throughout the re-opening process, the PA Chamber has heard from businesses from across the state that the additional federal UC benefit payment has served as a deterrent for employees to return to work. This point was further illustrated in a recent Federal Reserve report – in which employers in the Third Federal Reserve District, which includes much of Pennsylvania, noted ‘difficulties attracting workers despite high unemployment rates.’ A group of manufacturers echoed the same challenges in a meeting held recently by the Columbia Montour Chamber.
“While policymakers are contemplating extending enhanced unemployment benefits they must also develop clear eligibility standards and address misperceptions that individuals may quit their job or refuse offers of suitable work in order to continue collecting benefits,” Barr said. Contrary to statements made by Governor Wolf, refusing to return to work due to receiving more on unemployment constitutes fraud. The PA Department of Labor has an online form for employers to report individuals committing UC fraud.