HARRISBURG – The Senate Labor and Industry Committee chaired by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46) advanced Senate Bill 689, legislation sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker which would reinstate the requirement that a claimant search for work to be eligible to receive unemployment compensation.
Because of the pervasive job loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the mitigation orders associated with it, the Department of Labor and Industry suspended the requirements related to active search for work and job registration with the PA CareerLink® system. The General Assembly supported the decision by passing Act 9 of 2020, which continued the suspension until December 31, 2020. However, without legislative approval or input, the department extended the suspension indefinitely on January 1.
“Unlike when the work search requirement was relaxed, the vaccine is now widely available. Infection rates continue to drop, and even the governor has begun to reopen the state for business. Yet, Pennsylvania is still not realizing the economic recovery that is possible,” Bartolotta said. “Many employers across the state are still struggling to fill needed roles as some people have determined that the financial benefit of collecting unemployment is more attractive than returning to work.”
Openings in the service and hospitality industries, seasonal and summer employment, and retail and manufacturing are abundant, evidenced by generous sign-on and referral bonuses. Employers are also offering increased compensation and benefits, but positions remain vacant.
“Those who are unemployed can safely return to the workforce, and family-sustaining jobs await them. By increasing the workforce, we will also take the next step to restoring our economic vitality and tax base,” Bartolotta added.
While the governor’s acting Labor and Industry Secretary, Jennifer Berrier, said that the work search requirement will resume July 18, the job registration requirement will not resume until September. The legislation would codify the change into law so it is not subject to the whim of the administration.
The committee also passed two bills that Bartolotta co-prime sponsored. Senate Bill 617 (Senator Christine Tartaglione) would require an employer to provide up to six weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to an eligible employee to care for a terminally ill sibling, grandparent or grandchild, provided the sibling, grandparent or grandchild has no living spouse, child age 17 or older or parent age 65 or younger.
Senate Bill 567 (Senator Michele Brooks) would change the way Pennsylvania businesses are deemed to be essential and life-sustaining in future disaster declarations by requiring the use of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) guidance. It would provide a uniform process, as well as more continuity, clarity and guidance for businesses.
Also during the meeting, the committee members voted in favor of House Bill 664 (Representative John Hershey), legislation that would allow minors to operate temporary businesses, such as lemonade stands, in municipalities or homeowners’ associations without having to obtain a business license or permit.
CONTACT: Eric Kratz, 717-787-1463