Jul. 26, 2021 / Press Release

Remember that Work Search Requirements are Back

Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier recently reminded Pennsylvanians receiving unemployment benefits that work search requirements have now resumed. Because claimants always file for benefits the week after they are unemployed, individuals will start certifying they looked for work beginning July 18.

“As many Pennsylvanians explore new career options and employers are eager to hire skilled workers, we want people to connect with job training and other resources that can help them to start good jobs and successful careers,” said Secretary Berrier. “PA CareerLink® offices across the commonwealth can help job seekers bridge the gap by providing high quality, individualized assistance free of charge to Pennsylvanians who are unemployed and looking for a job.”

L&I strongly encourages job seekers to register on the PA CareerLink website or reach out to their local PA CareerLink® office directly to learn about the free programs and resources that are available, including:
  •   Job search and training assistance;
  •   Adult education classes and workshops;
  •   Résumé assistance; and
  •   Referral services to partners.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) also provides employment and training programs that support job seekers specifically within low-income populations.

Employment and training programs and assistance are available for people who qualify for Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These programs work closely with participants in identifying interests, goals, and opportunities for job training or education to help them find a fulfilling career. They also focus on mitigating barriers to success in employment like access to child care, transportation, mental health services, and ongoing mentorship bonds after starting a job.

Individuals receiving Medicaid can take advantage of the Medicaid Work Supports system, which connects participants to local employment and training resources with a goal of supporting people in finding long-term employment and achieving financial independence. People who receive SNAP or TANF can enroll in the Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS), or the Employment, Advancement and Retention Network (EARN) programs to obtain employment skills, earn valuable certifications, and sustain good jobs. Individuals receiving TANF can also take part in the Work Ready program, which helps put the people DHS serves on the path to economic stability and independence. The SNAP 50/50 program is also available for people receiving SNAP, which allows them to gain hands-on paid work experience.

More information on these employment and training programs can be found at www.dhs.pa.gov. Applications for Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and other public assistance programs can be submitted online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Those who prefer to submit paper documentation can pick up an application at their local County Assistance Office (CAO), where social distancing protocols are in place, or they can print from the website or request an application by phone at 1-800-692-7462. They can then mail it to their local CAO or place it in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. Individuals can also apply for SNAP and Medicaid over the phone by calling 1-866-550-4355. Applicants do not need to know their own eligibility in order to apply. While CAOs are reopening, work processing applications, determining eligibility, and issuing benefits continues. Clients should use COMPASS or the MyCOMPASS PA mobile app to submit necessary updates to their case files online whenever possible.
Department of Human Services to Reopen County Assistance Offices

The Department of Human Services today announced that all County Assistance Offices (CAO) will resume in-person operations for clients on July 12, 2021. On-site CAO services will provide clients with access to DHS’ caseworkers and services if they cannot access online services or need assistance that cannot be accessed through the COMPASS website, the myCOMPASS PA mobile app, or by calling the Customer Service Center.

“No one should be forgoing services that help them live well and meet essential needs, so whether you visit a CAO in-person or access services via our website and mobile app, DHS is here to help you. I want to thank everyone for their patience while our CAOs were closed to in-person services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead. “Because our clients were able to access services online, we had the opportunity to keep the public and our staff safe from COVID-19 while still providing access to health care, food, and other essential needs to those who needed them. However, our CAOs are still a vital local resource for Pennsylvanians who need assistance, so we are pleased to be able to resume in-person services on July 12.”

The CAOs will be following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Department of Health to ensure the health and safety of clients and staff. While CAOs will not require masks to be worn inside at all times, visitors who are not vaccinated or who prefer to wear masks are encouraged to do so.

DHS’ online applications and resources will remain accessible at www.compass.pa.state.us and the myCOMPASS PA mobile app, and clients are still encouraged to use online and mobile services whenever possible. Clients can apply for benefits, make updates to their case, and submit paperwork virtually. The following key services can be accessed online without going into a CAO:
  •   Apply for Medical Assistance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, cash assistance, Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  •   Find out how to apply for Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) benefits;
  •   Submit benefit renewal information;
  •   Review benefits and case record information;
  •   Report a change in case information; and,
  •   Upload verification documents.

While CAO’s are reopening, work processing applications, determining eligibility, and issuing benefits continues. Clients should use COMPASS or the MyCOMPASS PA mobile app to submit necessary updates to their case files online whenever possible.

Assistance can also be reached over the phone by contacting the Customer Service Centers where caseworkers are available to speak directly with callers to answer questions. Clients can call the Statewide Customer Service Center at 1-877-395-8930.

For more information about assistance programs administered through DHS, visit www.dhs.pa.gov or www.compass.state.pa.us.  
New Law Will Aid in Protecting Children from Abuse

A new law will help stop child abuse by simply improving communications among agencies charged with investigating the crime.

Act 42 of 2021, formerly House Bill 954, allows law enforcement agencies to share information relevant to an allegation or instance of abuse with entities required by the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) to investigate such abuse. Previously, law enforcement agencies had been blocked by the Criminal History Record Information Act from sharing investigative or criminal record history information with county children and youth agencies that are responsible for investigating child abuse.

This has put some children in abuse cases at risk for greater harm, as well as forcing other abuse victims to be repeatedly interviewed by various authorities about their traumatic experiences. Improved communication will substantially improve the Commonwealth’s ability to live up to our responsibility to protect our children.
Supporting Our Farmers through Agritourism

Agriculture remains the state’s top industry, but our farmers continue to face challenges in keeping their operations financially viable. A new law aims to help those farmers who choose to diversify through agritourism.

Act 27 of 2021, formerly House Bill 101, will provide limited civil liability protections to farmers who open their operations to the public for a fee. Agritourism activities may include things like farm markets, pick-your-own produce, corn mazes, petting zoos, hayrides and farm tours. It’s a great way to educate people about where their food comes from and allows our farmers to continue to put food on our tables.

The law is intended to protect agritourism businesses from frivolous lawsuits where no party is at fault for injuries or damages. The protections would not apply if the farmer or provider acts in a grossly negligent manner, purposefully causes the participant injury, commits an action or inaction that constitutes criminal conduct and causes the participant injury, or recklessly fails to warn or guard against a dangerous condition that causes injury or damages to a participant.
Do You Have Unclaimed Property?

The Pennsylvania Treasury is working to reunite Pennsylvanians with more than $4 billion in unclaimed property.

Property such as uncashed checks and abandoned bank accounts, stocks or safe deposit boxes are turned over to Treasury after three years of dormancy or inactivity, or two years for payroll checks.

Treasury recently completed the first major upgrade to the unclaimed property system in more than 15 years, making it easier than ever for Pennsylvanians to claim what is theirs – you do not have to pay anyone for this service! Click here to see if you, your family or your friends are owed unclaimed property. The average claim is worth about $2,000.

In the meantime, here are a few simple steps you can take to make sure your property doesn’t end up at Treasury:
  •   Keep financial institutions informed of any address changes.
  •   Communicate with your financial institutions at least once every three years.
  •   Create and keep up-to-date records of bank accounts, stocks, life insurance policies, safe deposit boxes and all other financial information.
  •   Let a family member or trusted advisor know where you keep financial records.
  •   Cash or deposit all checks as you receive them.