Tom Waring, the Times
State Rep. John Galloway, minority-party chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee, has expressed his frustration over the Senate concluding its business for the 2015-16 legislative session while leaving an unemployment compensation bill awaiting a vote.
The Senate adjourned for the session before voting on several bills, including H.B. 2375.
As a result, the state Department of Labor and Industry has announced that up to 450 employees will be laid off effective Dec. 19 and three of the eight Unemployment Compensation Service Centers will be closed. Additional layoff notices are expected for other employees.
The three centers that will be closed are in Allentown, Altoona and Lancaster.
The bill, which was introduced by Republican state Rep. Mauree Gingrich, of Lebanon County, was a bipartisan plan to extend a funding program that has been in effect for the last four years. That money has been used to hire staff and dramatically reduce customer wait times and also to upgrade the department’s computer system, which has components that are 40 years old.
“By refusing to act on the bill, which passed the House with 175 affirmative votes last month, the Senate leadership is proving they are out of touch with most Pennsylvanians,” Galloway said. “By refusing to even allow a vote by the full Senate, they have directly caused the layoffs of hundreds of Pennsylvanians as we enter the holiday season.
“Even worse, those who will be losing their positions due to the closure will no doubt experience delays and inconvenience as their local Service Centers are the ones being shuttered. The House passed the bill on Oct. 19, which left ample time for Senate action, but it is clear that those who rely on unemployment compensation — compensation to which they are entitled — just do not matter to the Senate leaders.”
Galloway added that after the service center closures take effect, the remaining open centers will be in Duquesne, Erie, Harrisburg, Indiana and Scranton.