|By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne)
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) announced this week that due to an alarming spike in suspicious applications for unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, additional anti-fraud and identity verification measures will be put in place.
Because of that, payments for new applicants are being temporarily delayed with the department providing more information as the enhancement continues. There is no effect on people who have already opened a PUA claim.
Within the first few weeks of the PUA program, scammers began filing claims under false identities using personal information stolen through data breaches that occurred outside of state government. Pennsylvania implemented security measures to help identify and prevent payout for fraudulent claims and subsequently had a reduction in the overall number of claims filed for the PUA program.
However, L&I staff recently noticed a jump in new claims from the average of about 5,000 daily to reaching more than 20,000 last week, with many of these new claims being filed from outside of the state. As soon as this surge was detected, L&I notified its law enforcement partners and began to develop stronger identity verification methods.
Applications for the PUA program are continuing to be accepted, but new payouts are being postponed until the new identity verification methods are implemented. PUA claimants who applied prior to this issue are unaffected, as are claimants of other unemployment compensation programs run by L&I.
The department has paid out more than $5 billion to PUA claimants and $28 billion to recipients of all unemployment compensation programs since the start of the pandemic.
Representative Tarah Toohil
116th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office