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Pa. unemployment system buckling under pressure

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The Investigator

Breaking news on Pa.'s response to the coronavirus

March 31, 2020 | spotlightpa.org

As of Friday, the number of new unemployment claims filed in Pennsylvania since the shutdown surpassed the total for all of 2019. And the state's unemployment system is buckling under the pressure, in part because of a 2016 political spat between the governor and legislature that gutted staffing.

Also, we'll get our first picture of state tax revenues later this week (and it's going to be rough). On Friday, the state laid off about 2,500 seasonal and part-time workers, and we're betting there are more to come. Gov. Tom Wolf has already issued a hiring freeze and general purchasing ban for agencies.

On another front, there is growing concern for those incarcerated in the state prison system. Inmate advocates and corrections officers alike think it's poised for an outbreak with potentially devastating consequences. On Saturday, the first inmate tested positive and the entire system was placed under quarantine.

There is no end in sight for Pennsylvania's widespread shutdown, as Wolf on Monday said schools will remain closed indefinitely and the expanding stay-at-home orders — now covering 26 counties — will remain in place until at least the end of April. In like a lion, out like a ... lion?

You can stay up-to-date on the latest case counts in the state and view a county-by-county map with our live tracker, which now includes testing data.

Finally, our job of informing you is 100% essential and we won't stop no matter what happens. But unlike other news organizations, we depend on your donations to keep us going. Join the growing number of people showing their support for our urgent public-service journalism by making a gift now.

We're united with you and we're all in this together. As always, if you have tips, story ideas or other comments, don't hesitate to reach out. Stay safe.

Christopher Baxter, Spotlight PA
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