Pennsylvanians who are receiving unemployment benefits must be actively looking for work to continue to receive those benefits.

The work search requirement that was suspended during the pandemic was reinstituted as of July 18.

Some business owners and some lawmakers have complained the $300 stimulus payment that is available each week in addition to the state benefit gives displaced workers an incentive to stay home rather than apply for a job.

A poll conducted by Morning Consult last month that surveyed 463 out of work adults estimated that 1.8 million Americans have turned down job offers and chosen to continue receiving unemployment benefits instead. However, some who have not sought jobs during the pandemic cite concerns about COVID-19 or the logistics involved in obtaining child care or care for another family member.

A survey from WalletHub showed the states with the most robust economic recovery are led by Republican governors. A comparison between Pennsylvania, led by Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf, and Republican-led New Hampshire is a case in point.

And many area businesses are actively seeking employees.

“The number one issue holding back reopening and endangering thousands of businesses, especially small business, is the workforce shortage,” said Guy Ciarrocchi, president and CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry. “This is forcing small businesses to reduce hours of operation and products or services offered. This is crushing the very businesses harmed the most by the COVID-lockdowns and restrictions. We will not stop fighting until every business is given the chance to reopen at 100 percent and everyone can return to work.”

Meanwhile, Sarah DeSantis, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s press secretary, says employers should notify the department if they know or suspect an individual has turned down a suitable offer.

“If a person declines suitable work, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits,” she said. “An employer who believes an individual who has turned down a job offer is collecting unemployment benefits can notify L&I.”

With the onset of the new regulations, Pennsylvania residents who are receiving benefits through traditional unemployment compensation (UC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) must not only actively engage in a job search, but must document that search, and be prepared to present that documentation to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry upon request.

To comply with the mandate, an individual receiving unemployment benefits, whatever the source, must apply for two jobs and engage in one work search-related activity each week.

A work search-related activity is defined as:

  • Attending a job fair
  • Searching job listings on the PA CareerLink® system or an Internet job bank
  • Creating or posting a résumé in the PA CareerLink® system or other résumé-posting services.
  • Utilizing an employment agency, employment registry, or school placement service.
  • Taking a civil service test or another pre-employment test.
  • Participating in a program/activity offered through the PA CareerLink® system.
  • Contacting people you know to make them aware you are available for work or to obtain information about employment opportunities.

Individuals who are working part-time and are receiving a reduced benefit payment for a particular week need only make one job application for that week instead of two, and the work search requirement is waived.

Beneficiaries applying for jobs may apply for any job they are capable of performing to meet the state requirements. They may however limit their search to employers who offer hours and wages similar to what the applicant was earning before they became unemployed. They may limit their search to employers that are within a 45-minute commute if telework is not available.

Applying to the same employer more than once, i.e. in multiple weeks, does not meet the work search requirement, unless the employer’s requirements have changed.

When applying for benefits each week, applicants may be asked if they have complied with the work search requirements.

Some individuals may be exempt from the work search requirement, including individuals who receive their work through a union hiring hall,  individuals on a Shared Work plan through their employer, individuals in Trade Act training, individuals attending a RESEA session for the week, and those who have written recall dates from their employer.

Benefit recipients are required to keep track of their job searches. A form is available online for this purpose.

It is not mandatory to use this form, but if recipients use another method, like a spreadsheet, the same information must be retained and provided upon request. The Department of Labor may request to see your information for two years from the effective date of your claim.

Also, it is mandatory for workers to report any earnings for work, whether they have been paid for the work or not. For example, if they earned money during the week ending July 17 but won’t be paid for that work until the end of the following week, the income is considered to have been earned the week of the 17th and must be reported that way.

DeSantis notes that to maintain eligibility for benefits, individuals must be available for suitable work.

“If an individual believes the job they were offered is not suitable, the (department) staff will review the case individually,” she said.

For more information, recipients should contact the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry or consult their unemployment handbook.