In this monthly column, Pittsburgh District 1 Councilman Bobby Wilson shares his message for Northsiders.
Photo courtesy of Councilman Bobby Wilson
I know how tough the coronavirus pandemic has been on our Northside community. Many of us are staying home to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus or bravely continuing to go to work to provide essential services. Though we are beginning to see the curve flatten in Allegheny County as a result of the sacrifices our local businesses have made in closing their doors and altering their services, this incredible disruption to our economy has cost many people their jobs. Nationwide, more than 26 million people, or one out of every six workers, have lost their jobs in the past five weeks. In Pennsylvania, one in four people have lost their jobs. Frankly, with the exception of fighting coronavirus or losing a loved one to this disease, Northsiders are most worried about making ends meet after losing their jobs or having their hours cut.
If you are in this financially precarious situation, I strongly urge you to apply for unemployment compensation. Unemployment compensation is the traditional payment distributed by the state’s Department of Labor & Industry to Pennsylvanians who have lost their jobs due to an economic downturn, like the one we are all struggling through right now. It is meant to provide a source of income to jobless workers while the economy rebounds and they look for their next job. Right now, you are eligible for this compensation if your workplace temporarily or permanently closes, or cuts your hours, because of this pandemic. If you are an essential worker, you would also be eligible for this income if your boss has asked you to isolate yourself—to not to come in to work—to reduce the risk of infecting your coworkers. You can apply online for unemployment compensation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Traditionally, certain categories of workers—such as independent contractors, gig workers, and the self-employed—did not qualify for unemployment compensation. This is no longer the case. If you belong to this category of workers, please apply for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance immediately. This is a new form of compensation available through the end of this year and can be backdated to January 27, 2020. If you qualify for this assistance, you may be able to regain some of your lost income, as your weekly payment should range between $200 and $550.
If you apply for traditional unemployment compensation or the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and are found eligible for either, you will automatically receive an additional $600 each week in federal pandemic unemployment compensation for every week that you receive these base forms of unemployment assistance. This extra $600 per week, along with your base unemployment compensation, is intended to replace the average weekly salary of an American worker. In ordinary circumstances, unemployment compensation does not replace an unemployed worker’s full weekly income. It is only meant to ensure the purchase of essential goods and services. The low payment is intended to motivate the search for a job that pays more. In a pandemic, when looking for work is both futile and dangerous, this logic does not apply. If you qualify for this extra $600 per week, all you have to do is keep filing biweekly claims—your unemployment benefit will be automatically updated.
I know that applying for unemployment compensation can be confusing and frustrating, and many proud, hard-working Northsiders never imagined finding themselves in this situation. My office is ready to help you navigate all of these applications. If you have any questions, concerns, or stories about your experience obtaining unemployment assistance, please let me know at (412) 255-2135, email my office at email@example.com, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We look forward to hearing from all of you.
Stay home, stop the spread, and save lives!