Health - November 18, 2016

Labor & Industry set for layoffs amid funding dispute

Governor Tom Wolf’s office released a statement to the press yesterday indicating that the Department of Labor & Industry will face layoffs in the coming weeks. Wolf cited the Senate’s failure to act on a bill that would extend funding to the department’s unemployment compensation call centers beyond the end of the year. HB 2375 would have extended funding for the call centers for another year. But the Senate concluded business on Wednesday without voting on the measure. With no further voting days left for the lame duck session, the bill dies and funding expires at the end of the year. 600 Labor & Industry employees will be affected. Some members of the Senate expressed irritation that they were expected to consider the bill at the last minute when it was well known for the last four years that funding was set to expire.

Labor and Industry Secretary Kathy Manderino noted that they raised the issue months ago. The department has been working on technology upgrades for the unemployment benefits system for a number of years. A cancelled contract by the Corbett administration on the upgrades led to the creation of the current funding stream to assist in maintaining the system and help with those already planned upgrades. HB 2375 extended that funding and without it, there is not enough money for payroll. Details are still being worked out on how far the cuts will go and whether they will extend beyond the call center employees. The Wolf Administration said those details are still being worked out and employees will be able to file for unemployment. They also noted, ironically, that those employees may experience longer waits to see benefits kick in.