Senate Republicans desert workers in need of help

HARRISBURG, Nov. 18 – House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said reduced services for thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians and the imminent furlough of up to 600 workers are the direct result of a refusal to act by state Senate Republican leaders like Scott Wagner.

Dermody said their deliberate choice not to pass a measure to fund unemployment compensation service centers will make it harder for jobless Pennsylvanians to receive unemployment benefits and result in hundreds of layoffs at state-operated call centers.

“It's a colossal dereliction of duty by Senate Republican leaders,” Dermody said. “They knew exactly what was at stake and yet they deserted the Capitol without taking one quick and simple roll call vote that would have avoided this. It’s a disgraceful way to end the year and a very bad omen for next year.”

The Senate’s failure to fund completion of technology improvements at the state’s eight unemployment call centers means some of those centers will have to close, making it more difficult for out-of-work Pennsylvanians to file claims and access their benefits.

Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-Lebanon, introduced the funding bill (H.B. 2375) this fall and Republicans and Democrats in the House worked together in bipartisan fashion to quickly advance and pass it, sending it to the state Senate on Oct. 19 by a 175-13 vote.

The Senate briskly positioned the Gingrich bill for a final vote on Oct. 26, but then ignored the legislation even though it was listed for consideration that day. The Senate managed to send 43 other bills to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk that same day.

This week Senate Republican leaders had another chance to finish the job, but they again chose not to take the one final vote that would send the unemployment funding bill to the governor.

“It’s beyond offensive that Senate Republicans are attempting to shift blame for their own deliberate inaction which is going to cost hundreds of workers their jobs,” Dermody said. “The only reason this bill wasn’t finished in October or this month is because the Republican leaders who control the Senate refused to bring it up.

“Senate Republicans abandoned Pennsylvania workers and jeopardized the operation of our unemployment compensation centers. There’s still time for them to see the light, reconvene and pass this critically important legislation before the end of November.

“Otherwise the coming holidays are going to be a much more difficult period for many job seekers,” Dermody said.