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May 26, 2021

Pennsylvania to require proof of work-search for unemployment benefits starting in July

The requirement was waived during the height of the pandemic, and Republican lawmakers want it reinstated to address the current labor shortage

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Pennsylvania will require the hundreds of thousands of residents receiving unemployment benefits in the state to resume their job search requirement, which was temporarily frozen during the pandemic.

The hundreds of thousands of Pennyslvanians receiving unemployment benefits will soon have to resume their job search requirements in July.

The change, which also applies to Philadelphians, will begin July 18, which means individuals collecting unemployment benefits will need to start reopening their job search activity from the week before, July 11.

"As more Pennsylvanians become vaccinated and our case count continues to decline, workers can more safely return to the workforce," said Department of Labor & Industry Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier.

The job search requirement was waived for the past year, after Governor Tom Wolf issued the emergency declaration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Work registration requirements will start sometime in September, Kevin Lessard, deputy communications director for Mayor Kenney's office, told PhillyVoice.

"While reinstating the work search requirement in the Commonwealth is a nod to things returning to normal, there are still complex factors at play," said H. Patrick Clancy, president and CEO of Philadelphia Works, the city’s local workforce development board. "Philadelphia will get back to work, through aligned training initiatives, strategic workforce investments and employer partners who are engaged in our workforce and understand and value our essential workers."

Under the work-search requirement, people receiving unemployment benefits have to apply for two jobs and complete one work-search activity. These include attending a job fair, taking a pre-employment test or post their resume.

In Pennsylvania, around 750,000 people are receiving jobless benefits through state or federal programs, according to the Department of Labor and Industry.

The job search requirement will apply to all unemployment programs, along with the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

This effort was largely backed by Republican lawmakers, who have been pushing for Wolf to bring back the requirements, according to the Associated Press. Employers have reported labor shortages, which they claim is caused by state jobless benefits and an additional $300 each week in federal support.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry also urged lawmakers in a letter to approve the legislation. Sam Denisco, the chamber's vice president of government affairs, said businesses are having to limit their offerings as the pandemic-caused restrictions are being lifted because they don't have enough employees to support higher customer traffic.

Some states, like Connecticut, are considering – and in some cases offering  cash incentives for getting back to work.

However, other factors like childcare, low wages and poor benefits may be the cause behind the labor shortage, the Washington Post reported.

Companies that pay less than $15 an hour are pushing incentives, bonuses and more to get more people back to work. The median wage for non-management restaurant and bar employees rose 70 cents an hour to $14.50 in the past three months alone.

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