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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: May 11, 2021 11:13 AM
From: Representative Jim Cox
To: All House members
Subject: Back to Work Legislation
I am preparing to introduce legislation that will end Pennsylvania’s participation in three federal unemployment programs that are putting the brakes on our economic recovery. 
Between borrowed federal stimulus payments with no strings attached and enhanced unemployment benefits that pay people not to work, federal policy has been encouraging unemployment claimants to stay home.  It may have made some sense to send that message for a few months at the beginning of the pandemic, but a lot has changed since last spring.  As more and more Pennsylvanians are vaccinated or have developed natural immunity to COVID-19, there are far fewer restrictions on economic activity, and it is high time to get Pennsylvanians back to work.  The message now should be: Go find a job!
To “flip the script” for our unemployment system, my legislation will phase out Pennsylvania’s participation in the federal unemployment programs that are paying unemployment claimants to sit at home.  A state can withdraw from these federal programs upon 30 days’ notice to the US Department of Labor.  The federal programs will be phased-out as follows - within:
  • One week of the effective date – L&I will give notice to end participation in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program (the extra $300/week).
  • Three weeks of the effective date – L&I will give notice to end participation in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program (unemployment benefits for individuals who are not eligible for traditional state unemployment compensation).
  • Five weeks of the effective date – L&I will give notice to end participation in the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program (an unemployment benefits extension program).
In addition to removing the disincentives for unemployment claimants to find work, the legislation will also provide an incentive for those who promptly discontinue their claims to accept and maintain employment.  The Back-to-Work Bonus Program will provide a $300 bonus for former claimants who work four consecutive weeks of work. Then, to incentivize remaining in the workforce, individuals who remain employed for eight consecutive weeks with the same employer may receive a second $300 bonus.  The bonuses will be funded with $154 million from federal COVID relief funds, and, to reward those who take faster steps into the workforce, priority will be given to individuals who 1) discontinued their unemployment benefits earlier, 2) are working full time (at least 35 hours per week), or 3) have been employed for eight consecutive weeks and are applying for the second bonus.
I understand that this legislation alone will not resolve Pennsylvania’s workforce crisis.  However, shifting policy incentives away from unemployment and toward work is a step we can take right now to start sending the message: Go find a job!
I hope you will join me by cosponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB508