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Labor Report

Unemployed Pennsylvanians Will Soon Be Eligible for Additional Emergency Benefits

Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor & Industry Jerry Oleksiak announced that the Commonwealth has been awarded $1.5 billion in federal emergency funds to provide an extra $300 per week to eligible unemployed workers through the temporary Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program.

“The recently ended $600 weekly federal benefit was a true lifeline to many Pennsylvanians and I know you are anxious for these new payments to begin,” said Secretary Oleksiak. “L&I is working as quickly as possible to evaluate what it will take to implement this program and begin paying the $300 weekly supplement in Pennsylvania, while awaiting final program guidance from the federal government. We will get this money into the pockets of the eligible Pennsylvanians who need it and will be sure to keep everyone updated throughout this complex process.”

To qualify for the extra $300, individuals must be receiving at least $100 per week in benefits from regular Unemployment Compensation (UC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Extended Benefits (EB), Short-Time Compensation (STC) or Shared-Work, or Trade Readjustment Allowance (TRA).

PEUC is the additional 13 weeks of federal benefits available to unemployed workers who have exhausted their initial 26 weeks of UC benefits. EB is the 13 weeks of state benefits available to unemployed workers who have exhausted their initial 26 weeks of UC benefits, as well as their 13 weeks of PEUC.

To be eligible for LWA, individuals must also self-certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to work disruptions caused by COVID-19. Payments will be made to eligible claimants retroactively to August 1. The $300 per week payments will continue until the federal emergency funding is exhausted, the federal government enacts new law relevant to unemployment benefits, or it extends the recently expired Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

FPUC, which ended in July, provided an extra $600 per week in benefits to those who were also receiving either UC or PUA benefits.

PA Health Department Reports Significant Increases in COVID-19 Positive Rates Among Young Adults

Pennsylvania’s college-age and young working-age adults have experienced significant growth in their COVID-19 positive rates across all areas of the Commonwealth since the early stages of the pandemic, according to the Department of Health.

Adults ages 25 to 49 have accounted for 38% of Pennsylvania’s 131,991 positive cases overall as of August 27. This is the largest age group in terms of population. By comparison, Pennsylvanians ages 50 to 64 have accounted for 23% of the statewide total.

Individuals ages 19 to 24 have accounted for 10% of the statewide total, yet their percent of the statewide total has increased significantly in all regions. In the Southeast, the age group accounted for 5% of the region’s cases in April but has accounted for 18% so far in August. In the Northeast, the rate has grown from 6% to 19%. In the North-Central, it has grown from 7% to 17%. In the Southwest, it has grown from 5% to 12%. In the South-Central, it has grown from 7% to 13%. And in the Northwest, it has grown from 7% to 10%.

Approximately 9,526 of the total positive cases are among healthcare workers. In July, the Department issued an alert to healthcare providers regarding “the changing epidemiology of COVID-19 case demographics.” The document recommended that “healthcare providers who are evaluating patients for COVID-19 should instruct the patient to isolate while awaiting test results. Patients should be asked to develop a list of people who were in close contact (defined as being within 6 feet for a period of 15 minutes or more depending upon the exposure) with them from 48 hours before symptom onset or test date for asymptomatic persons to the time at which the patient isolated.”

Mask-wearing is required in all businesses and whenever leaving home. Consistent mask-wearing is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“Wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and following the requirements set forth in the orders for bars and restaurants, gatherings, and telework will help keep our case counts low,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We know that the cases in schools and in facilities such as nursing homes are often a reflection of the spread of the virus in the local community. Together, as Pennsylvanians, we each have a part to play in working to ensure that cases of COVID-19 remain low.”

States Reject New CDC Recommendation to Reduce Coronavirus Testing for Asymptomatic People

Pennsylvania and numerous other states have rejected a new COVID-19 recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control not to test asymptomatic people who have been exposed to carriers of the virus.

The Inquirer reported that the Commonwealth, as well as New Jersey, and the City of Philadelphia have each indicated they would maintain more-stringent testing standards, which recommend testing for anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has the virus. Governors of New York, Connecticut, Kentucky, Washington, and California have also spoken against the new CDC standards.

“The CDC’s new guidelines said it isn’t necessary for those who have been exposed to infected people to get tested if they don’t have symptoms,” the Inquirer stated. “After that prompted sharp criticism on Wednesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield made a clarification Thursday, saying that 'testing may be considered' for people who have been in close contact with someone with the virus.”

“The CDC had previously recommended testing for anyone who had been within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. Widespread testing has been a key component of the coronavirus response for most countries. People can transmit the virus even when they don’t feel sick, and the CDC estimated in July that 40% of people infected are asymptomatic.”

The CDC’s latest guidance seems to align with prior statements from the White House blaming the nation’s testing rate for its high volume of positive cases and suggesting that we should “slow down” testing. The United States has had the most COVID-positive cases in the world since the onset of the pandemic.

With almost 5.9 million positive cases as of August 28, the US has more than 2 million more than Brazil, which has the second-most cases. The US’ per capita rate of 1,800 positive cases per 100,000 residents trails only Qatar, Chile, and Peru among nations with at least 100,000 positive cases.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Medical Association have each called for the CDC to reverse its new guidance, which the AMA described as “a recipe for community spread and more spikes.”

Commonwealth Court: Cosmetology License Morality Requirement Arbitrary, Unconstitutional

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court has ruled that the state’s Board of Cosmetology can no longer deny licenses to applicants based on what it determines to be their absence of “good moral character.”

According to WHYY, the verdict means that applicants such as Courtney Haveman of Bucks County have an opportunity to pursue their careers despite their past legal troubles.

“Haveman, 28, lives in Yardley and works as a shampooer and assistant in a hair salon,” the news organization reported. “But she wants to be an aesthetician, and about four years ago, thought that dream was within reach. She had finished aesthetician school and was offered a job — all she had to do was get her license. The state turned her down.”

Haveman has several years-old misdemeanor convictions on her record related to substance use disorder. She spent several days in jail, completed a period of probation, and has been in recovery since 2013. She applied for a cosmetology license in 2016.

“The Institute for Justice took up Haveman’s case and another plaintiff’s in 2018, argued that the provision in the cosmetology law was unconstitutional because it violated due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution,” WHYY reported.

The plaintiffs argued specifically that similar jobs, such as barbers, “can’t be denied state licenses due to perceived moral failings.”

In granting the relief sought by the plaintiffs, the court stated in part, “Good character has nothing to do with protecting beauty salon patrons. Indeed, the Board admits it has no evidence that the good character requirement protects salon customers. … In fact, the Board already has separate authority to withhold licenses for misbehavior that is related to cosmetology. Moreover, the good character requirement is unconstitutionally imprecise and arbitrary.”

Nation’s Initial Unemployment Claims Remain Above 1 Million; Pennsylvania Logs Fewer New Claims

Just over 1 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits during the week ending August 22, the second consecutive week and the 22nd time in the last 23 weeks that new claims exceeded 1 million.

The latest weekly total of 1,006,000 initial claims represented a decline of 98,000 from the previous period, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The four-week moving average was 1,068,000, a reduction of 107,250 from the previous four-week average.

New Jersey had the largest increase in initial claims for the week ending August 15 with 11,580 additional new claims, more than Florida (11,190), New York (9,879), and Texas (9,096). No other state had an increase greater than 3,800. California had the largest decrease in new claims (12,155), followed by Nevada (6,817), Georgia (4,236), and Pennsylvania (1,510).

The advance seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the week ending August 15 was 9.9%, the DOL stated, a decrease of 0.2% from the previous week’s revised rate. That rate reflected total seasonally adjusted insured unemployment of 14,535,000, a reduction of 223,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The four-week average in this category was 15,215,750, a decrease of 604,000 from the previous four-week average.

In addition, 50 states and the District of Columbia reported 607,806 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) during the week ending August 22. PUA is the program created under the federal CARES Act to provide unemployment benefits for displaced workers who are not eligible for traditional Unemployment Compensation (UC), including self-employed, independent contractors, and gig economy workers.

The total number of individuals claiming benefits through all unemployment programs for the week ending August 8 was 27,017,232, a decrease of 1,042,323 from the previous week. Extended unemployment benefits were available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.