PUC Continues to Educate Consumers About Available Resources & Utility Assistance Programs During COVID-19 Pandemic & Recovery

PUC Continues to Educate Consumers About Available Resources & Utility Assistance Programs During COVID-19 Pandemic & Recovery

HARRISBURG – Utilizing the latest technology and coordinating with front-line community partners, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) continues to educate utility customers about their rights and responsibilities, assistance programs, and available resources – during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as during the recovery period that will follow.

“In these uncertain times, the Commission is keenly aware that many people are struggling to keep their utility bills manageable and current and are seeking guidance and help,” said PUC Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille. “From the beginning of this crisis our Commission has taken steps to safeguard consumers and to reach out through our community partnerships and social media channels. The PUC remains ‘here for you’ – and we are committed to using all available methods to get valuable information into the hands of the utility customers during these extreme and trying times.”

Reach the PUC by Phone or Online

To schedule a virtual presentation or for more information, email the PUC’s consumer-education team at PA-PC-CMU_ConsumerEd@pa.gov.  For updates on utility-related actions related to the COVID-19 Pandemic, visit the PUC website or follow the Commission on Facebook and Twitter.

Educational Topics, Resources and Presentations

The PUC consumer-educator team consistently partners with various statewide community groups, state government agencies, legislators, human service providers, utility companies, community based organizations and many other partners to help educate, spread awareness and share many useful programs, tools and resources throughout this COVID-19 crisis. Among the educational topics, programs, presentations and resources available virtually and/or teleconferencing are the following:

  • What does the PUC Regulate?;
  • Utility Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs);
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Crisis Resources;
  • Hardship Fund Programs and Resources;
  • The Lifeline Program for Telephone and Broadband Internet Service;
  • Human Service Programs and Resources;
  • COVID-19 Recovery Programs and Resources;
  • Energy and Water Conservation Tips;
  • Utility Safety Tips;
  • Consumer Rights and Responsibilities; and
  • Shopping with Competitive Energy Suppliers – including presentations on the PUC’s nationally recognized websites www.PAPowerSwitch.com and www.PAGasSwitch.com.

Utility Customer Assistance Programs
Under PUC regulation, every major electric and natural gas utility overseen by the Commission offers CAPs, under which qualifying low-income customers pay discounted bills. Qualification in CAP programs is based on household size and gross household income.

Utilities also have other options to help consumers, including:

  • “Budget billing” which takes a customer’s annual utility costs and averages it out over 12 months so that bills don’t jump up or down from month to month;
  • “Payment plans” to help address past-due bills or delinquent balances; and
  • Various “Hardship Funds” supported by utilities and donations from utility customers along with non-profit and charitable organizations operating in the Commonwealth.

Energy Conservation Saves Money


The PUC also encourages families to explore energy conservation to help manage bills – especially as more people are working remotely. The PUC has interactive information and tips for saving energy on its energy shopping websites – PAPowerSwitch.com and PAGasSwitch.com – to help identify ways to save on energy usage.


About the PUC
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

33 million have sought US unemployment aid since virus hit

33 million have sought US unemployment aid since virus hit
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 3.2 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the business shutdowns caused by the viral outbreak deepened the worst U.S. economic catastrophe in decades. Roughly 33.5 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the seven weeks since the coronavirus began forcing millions of companies to close their doors and slash their workforces. That is the equivalent of one in five Americans who had been employed back in February, when the unemployment rate had reached a 50-year low of just 3.5%.

Self-employed and Others Can Now File for Backdated Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefits 

Self-employed and Others Can Now File for Backdated Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefits 

Approved claimants should get lump sum payments within 1 week of filing
Weekly certifications MUST be filed every week to continue receiving payments 

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jerry Oleksiak today announced eligible self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and others not normally eligible for regular unemployment compensation (UC) can begin filing backdated claims in the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) website.

The new PUA system, which launched its first phase on April 18, was completed early this morning and is now fully operational. L&I opted to roll out the system in two phases to collect as many applications ahead of time as possible so that payments could be made quickly after the website’s completion. To date, more than 174,000 new PUA claims have been filed.

Important information follows about the new PUA system and the process to file for previous weeks of unemployment and weekly certifications moving forward, and more.

Backdated PUA Claims and Payments 

  • PUA claims can be backdated to January 27, 2020 or to the first week you were  unemployed due to COVID-19, whichever of the two dates is later.
  • The system will backdate your claim to when you first became unemployed, as reported by you when you enter your last day of work.
  • You will NOT receive a confirmation email after submitting your initial PUA claim. Your determination information will be available in your dashboard on the PUA website.
  • Payments will be made in one lump sum either via direct deposit or to a UC-issued debit card through U.S. Bank, whichever method you chose when you applied.
  • If you’re eligible, approved and have no issues with your PUA claim, you should receive your first lump sum payment within one week or less after filing backdated claims.

Weekly Certifications and Payments 

  • Moving forward, claimants MUST file their PUA certifications WEEKLY to get paid. You will receive a one-week grace period if you miss filing your weekly certification.
  • An unemployment week is Sunday through Saturday, so the first day you can file your weekly certification is on a Sunday.
  • You don’t have to file on Sunday – you can file your weekly certification any day Sunday through Friday.
  • You can’t file for future weeks, only for the prior week(s).
  • Your very first payment – whether it’s the backdated lump sum payment or a regular weekly payment – will arrive within one week or less after you file your first certification.
  • Your regular weekly payments will arrive within three business days after you file your weekly certification.
  • The maximum weekly PUA benefit rate is $572. The minimum weekly amount is $195.  

Additional $600 Per Week Payments 

  • If you receive PUA payments, you will automatically receive an extra $600 per week through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.
  • You will receive your first FPUC payment the week after your first PUA payment. You will receive your PUA and FPUC payments separately.
  • FPUC benefits are for the week ending April 4, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020. These payments will also be backdated and paid in one lump sum.

Important Information About the Newly Completed PUA Website 

  • You do NOT need a Personal Identification Number (PIN) – you will have a username and password that you create.
  • Manage everything through your PUA dashboard on the website through www.uc.pa.gov/PUA – check on your claim and payment status, upload documents, etc.
  • Currently, questions about your claims should be emailed to UCPUA@pa.gov. You should expect to receive a response within 7 days. This email address is for PUA questions only. Any emails unrelated to PUA will not receive a response.
  • A new phone line will soon be available as well – please continue to check www.uc.pa.gov/PUA

Applications Still Being Accepted for PUA Benefits 

  • If you haven’t yet applied for PUA benefits and are eligible, please apply online.
  • Eligible individuals who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 include:
    • Self-employed;
    • Independent contractors;
    • Gig workers;
    • Clergy and those working for religious organizations; and
    • People without sufficient work history to qualify for regular UC.

PUA Benefits 

In general, PUA:

  • Provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits;
  • May not be more than the state’s maximum weekly benefit rate for regular UC of $572;
  • May not be less than half of the state’s average weekly benefit amount of $195.
  • Payments will be backdated to January 27, 2020 or the first week you were unable to work due to COVID-19 (whichever of the two dates is later); and
  • Benefits will not be payable for weeks of unemployment after December 31, 2020.

Information Needed to Show Previous Income 

Acceptable documentation of wages earned or paid during calendar year 2019 can include, but is not limited to:

  • 2019 tax returns;
  • 2019 1099s;
  • Paycheck stubs;
  • Bank receipts;
  • Ledgers;
  • Contracts;
  • Invoices; and/or
  • Billing statements. 

UC Payments  

Since March 15, the department has made over 11.7 million payments to claimants for a total of more than $5.4 billion in benefits – approximately $4 billion from regular UC and over $1.41 billion from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program (extra $600 per week).

UC Claim Statistics  

Since March 15, more than 1.7 million Pennsylvanians have filed for regular UC and more than 174,000 have filed for PUA. Regular UC claim statistics are available here and the breakdown of that data by industry and county is here. PUA claim statistics are available here.

PUA and FPUC are included in the new federal expansion to unemployment benefits provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Visit the commonwealth’s Responding to COVID-19 guide for the latest guidance and resources for Pennsylvanians or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19


(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Representative Conor Lamb (PA-17) sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to request an immediate investigation into the competence and performance of the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center’s management.  Additionally, the letter requests CMS determine whether the residents of Brighton are being well protected, and whether additional personnel from federal agencies or the National Guard, or access to more personal protective equipment and testing supplies would help Brighton better contain the outbreak of COVID-19.

 “The dangers posed by COVID-19 are bad enough,” Lamb wrote.  “It is simply unacceptable that the threat to the residents of Brighton was made worse by lax oversight, especially after more than 60 members of this community had died.  If those deaths did not convince either the temporary manager or the Brighton management to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward severe mistakes, then something needs to change at Brighton, and it needs to change right away.”

 Earlier this week, Lamb was joined by Representative Mike Doyle in a letter to CMS urging additional oversight of nursing homes and senior care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Lamb also advocated for additional protections for seniors in an April 15 letter calling for the Department of Health and Human Services and CMS to collect and publicly report facility-level data on the number of long-term care residents affected by the COVID-19.  On May 4, Lamb joined with other Members of Congress to request that a portion of the $25 billion emergency funding appropriated by Congress in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act be allocated to states specifically for the development, purchase, administration, or provision of COVID-19 diagnostic tests for long-term care facilities.


Businesses open in defiance of Pennsylvania shutdown

Businesses open in defiance of Pennsylvania shutdown
By MICHAEL RUBINKAM Associated Press
As swaths of Pennsylvania prepare for a limited reopening Friday, some fed-up business owners are jumping the gun and have resumed serving customers in defiance of Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown order. A salon and a gym in Blair County both reopened last week, declaring Wolf had no right to keep them closed during the pandemic. Blair County has reported only 25 coronavirus infections and no deaths. In hard-hit suburban Philadelphia, barber shop owner Nichole Missino says she and her six employees are running out of money and collectively decided to reopen this Saturday. Wolf and other officials say that businesses that ignore his shutdown order risk spreading the virus.

US jobless claims set to surge again before April jobs data

US jobless claims set to surge again before April jobs data
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is set Thursday to release another dire picture of the layoffs that have pummeled America’s workforce, one day before it will issue what is sure to be the worst monthly jobs report since record-keeping began seven decades ago. It will likely announce that several million more people filed for unemployment benefits last week, after more than 30 million sought aid in the previous six weeks after the coronavirus forced employers across the country to close. Most nonessential businesses remain shut down, though a majority of states have begun easing restrictions for some categories of companies.

Potential Side Effects Of COVID -19 . . . Isolation And Domestic Violence.

Story by Mark Peterson

(Beaver County, PA) The Corona Virus has many  symptoms that are well known and documented like a high fever and breathing difficulties.  However, the Covid -19 pandemic also has has an undesirable side effect that isn’t quite as apparent, isolation.  For most people, being shut in and stuck in the house for weeks, as part of quarantine efforts to stop the spread of the disease, is merely an inconvenience.  But, for someone experiencing bouts of domestic violence, the stay at home orders can mean being trapped with an abuser and having the feeling like they have no options. In part one of a weekly three part series, Beaver County Radio spoke to Ann Murray from the Beaver County Women’s Center about this important issue, and how the Women’s Center is responding to and helping people in crisis during this unique situation.

Ann Murray from the Women’s Center of Beaver County. (Beaver County Radio file photo)

Again, The Women’s Center helpline continues to be available 24 hours a day and can help provide options and support to anyone involved with domestic violence. The number once again is 724-775-0131.  Next Thursday, in part two of our series about the effects of isolation and being forced to stay at home with a potential abuser,  Beaver County Radio will speak with Ann Murray from the Women’s Center of Beaver County about therapy services that are available through the organization. For More Information, a link to the Women’s Center of Beaver County is available at beavercountyradio.com.

Gov. Wolf Outlines Plans to Create Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps to Support Fall COVID-19 Recovery Efforts

Gov. Wolf Outlines Plans to Create Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps to Support Fall COVID-19 Recovery Efforts

Harrisburg, PA – As Pennsylvania plans to safely reopen the economy and recover from COVID-19, Governor Tom Wolf announced the creation of the Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps, ​a public service initiative that will support efforts ​this fall to increase testing and contact tracing and provide critical new job opportunities in the public health sector.

“​Our highest priority remains protecting public health and safety, but we must also look ahead to see how we can address future needs. To reopen our economy to its maximum potential, we will need to boost our ability to contain this highly transmissible virus,” Governor Wolf said. “The Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps will serve as a public service program that will expand our ability to conduct contact tracing and testing and mobilize Pennsylvanians to contain COVID-19.”

The Wolf Administration’s continued measured and careful efforts to reopen Pennsylvania will depend on our ability to expand the availability of COVID-19 testing and develop a robust infrastructure to conduct surveillance and contact tracing. This work will allow Pennsylvanians to effectively monitor and respond to new cases and quantify mitigation efforts. It will help our phased reopening efforts while ensuring that the health care system does not become overwhelmed and that the transmission of disease continues to slow.

As Pennsylvania plans to ramp up these efforts in the coming months, the Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps would bring these efforts to fruition by:

  • Partnering with local public health agencies, community organizations, and the nonprofit community to expand Pennsylvania’s existing testing and contract tracing initiatives;
  • Leveraging additional resources to fund testing and contact tracing initiatives;
  • Exploring creative ways to recruit experienced Pennsylvanians with health care and public health experience to support this initiative; and
  • Coordinating existing resources deployed by the commonwealth, including community health nurses and county health departments who are currently conducting testing and contact tracing throughout the state.

The Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps ​will also provide for a unique opportunity for Pennsylvania to recruit and train COVID-19-impacted dislocated and unemployed workers into public service for contact tracing roles, which would address Pennsylvania’s health and economic needs.

To foster this new workforce, the Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps would:

  • Engage partners in the workforce development system, existing allied health training programs, and AmeriCorps programs to build and strengthen a public health workforce across the commonwealth;
  • Leverage existing workforce development resources to recruit, train, and connect the public health workforce with employment opportunities; and
  • Engage public health and health care employers to connect trained workers with long-term career opportunities.

“We have all made many sacrifices throughout this crisis and all we share a desire to move forward toward a healthier, safer and more prosperous future,” Governor Wolf said. “Through this public service initiative, Pennsylvanians will have opportunities ​in the months ahead to join a collective effort to ensure that we emerge from this pandemic a stronger commonwealth.”

New cases below 1,000 for 4th straight day in Pennsylvania: 3 More Deaths in Beaver County All in Nursing Homes.

New cases below 1,000 for 4th straight day in Pennsylvania
By MARC LEVY and MARK SCOLFORO Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania is reporting below 1,000 new cases of the coronavirus for the fourth straight day, the longest such streak since the daily reports of new cases first reached four figures in early April. Cases tallied in the two months since Pennsylvania reported its first positive test now number more than 51,840, according to Wednesday’s figures from the state Department of Health. That’s an increase of 888 from Tuesday’s figures. The state reported 94 more deaths, bringing the statewide total to 3,106. All told, about 2% of the population has been tested. About one-fifth of those tests were conducted in the past week.

Locally in Beaver County we are at 471 positive cases an increase of 5 since yesterday. 2291 people have tested negative in the county and the county is up 3 deaths to 76. All 3 Deaths being reported in nursing homes in the County.

In the 3 nursing homes that are reporting positive cases in the county there are now 307 positive cases an increase of 2 since yesterday. Employee cases are up 1 to 24 and the death toll has increased by 3 to 69.

Beaver County Radio To Carry Gov. Tom Wolf’s 3:30 PM Press Conference Today!!

(Beaver Falls, Pa,) Tune into 1230 WBVP, 1460 WMBA, 99.3 FM, and beavercountyradio.com at 3:30 p.m. today for a virtual press conference with  Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. They will provide an update on the coronavirus known as COVID-19 and efforts to mitigate the virus in Pennsylvania.

We will have full coverage of the Governor’s Press Conference at 3:30 p.m. Courtesy of Common Wealth Media Services.