Northeast Times

Northeast jobless center to close

The Pennsylvania De­part­ment of Labor and In­dustry has an­nounced that it will close its un­em­ploy­ment com­pens­a­tion ser­vice cen­ter at 2901 Grant Ave. on Aug. 15.

The tele­phone-based cus­tom­er-ser­vice of­fice is staffed by 75 per­man­ent and in­ter­mit­tent em­ploy­ees who an­swer calls from people on un­em­ploy­ment.

The work­ers are rep­res­en­ted by the SEIU and AF­SCME uni­ons, but do not have the right to “bump” less seni­or em­ploy­ees at oth­er cen­ters.

Staff mem­bers, who heard the news on Ju­ly 16, will re­ceive em­ploy­ment ser­vices to help them re­turn to the work force as quickly as pos­sible.

Ju­lia Hearth­way, sec­ret­ary of the labor and in­dustry de­part­ment, said Pennsylvania’s im­prov­ing eco­nomy and de­clin­ing un­em­ploy­ment com­pens­a­tion claims have res­ul­ted in di­min­ished fed­er­al fund­ing for un­em­ploy­ment com­pens­a­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion. That fund­ing is used to op­er­ate the Grant Av­en­ue loc­a­tion and eight oth­ers across the state.

“The num­ber of UC claims be­ing filed has dropped since the re­ces­sion’s end,” Hearth­way said. “We aren’t back to the level of pre-re­ces­sion claims, but the volume has dropped to the point where the need for high­er ca­pa­cit­ies and great­er ex­pense isn’t there.”

Pennsylvania’s ini­tial un­em­ploy­ment com­pens­a­tion claims have de­creased by 40.7 per­cent since Janu­ary. Con­tin­ued claims are down 37.5 per­cent.

At the same time, private-sec­tor jobs have grown 3 per­cent, rank­ing the state 16th in post-re­ces­sion private-sec­tor job growth.

Sara Goulet, a spokes­wo­man for the labor and in­dustry de­part­ment, said the Phil­adelphia of­fice was chosen as the one to close be­cause the lease was ex­pir­ing.

Goulet said the de­part­ment was pay­ing “sub­stan­tially more” in rent for that build­ing than for oth­ers around the state. Three of the cen­ters are loc­ated in build­ings owned by the state.

The de­part­ment main­tains there will be no dis­rup­tion in be­ne­fits.

“The de­part­ment is still op­er­at­ing tele­phone ser­vice cen­ters across Pennsylvania,” Hearth­way said. “Plus, claimants are en­cour­aged to use the In­ter­net to file UC claims and to get in­form­a­tion they need. We are pro­mot­ing our ‘On­line is Easy’ cam­paign to let claimants know that fil­ing on­line is fast, simple, se­cure and avail­able any time.”

Claimants can vis­it www.uc.pa.gov

Those without In­ter­net ac­cess can call toll-free 888-313-7284. Hours of op­er­a­tion are week­days from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Oth­er ser­vice cen­ters are loc­ated in Al­lentown, Altoona, Erie, Lan­caster, Scrant­on, Duquesne, Har­ris­burg and In­di­ana.

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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