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Legal Expert Addresses Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Questions

By: Bill Festa on in

Earlier today, I provided an update on Facebook Live, giving a brief overview on what PAR has been doing to advocate for you and your clients in the last several days.

Legislative Update

As you may know, Gov. Wolf vetoed Senate Bill 613 (Mensch, R-Montgomery) earlier this week, after announcing that the closure orders for non-life sustaining businesses would be extended to May 8. He also signed Senate Bill 841 (Martin, R-Lancaster) which allows for e-notarization. More information about SB 841 can be found on PARealtors.org.

While we are pleased to see movement after Gov. Wolf’s re-opening plan announcement on Wednesday, it’s unclear just what that means for the statewide practice of real estate. Given that limited in-person real estate has been practiced safely in most other states, we believe that our members can practice safely across the state under the general standards in the governor’s announcement.

Therefore, PAR continues to work with legislators, including state Rep. Todd Polinchock (R-Bucks), to pursue a consistent, statewide approach for the industry to reopen. Rep. Polinchock introduced House Bill 2412, which would require the Department of Community and Economic Development to issue a waiver to the governor’s Business Closure Order to allow all real estate-related activities to resume, as long as they adhere to social distancing practices and other mitigation measures defined by the Centers for Disease Control. Rep. Polinchock, who served as PAR’s president in 2016, understands our industry and the needs of our clients.

This morning, I provided testimony before a joint hearing of two Senate committees to discuss how the COVID-19 shutdown has impacted Pennsylvanians and the real estate industry, along with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the National Federation of Independent Businesses Pennsylvania and the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania.

To help prepare for Realtors® to begin doing business, I’ve appointed a Presidential Advisory Group to review best practices for real estate to ensure the safety of our clients and members in this new environment. PAR will provide you with that information after it’s been vetted by the PAG.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Questions

We know that the state’s roll out of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application process has caused a lot of frustration for our members. PAR has reached out to multiple sources at the state, trying to provide information and to get answers to many of your questions, with little to no response.

During the Facebook Live video, I was pleased to welcome a special guest, Peggy Morcom, Esq., who is a partner with Buzgon Davis Law Offices. Her practice focuses on labor and employment law and she frequently appears on behalf of employers in federal and state court and before governmental agencies.

Attorney Morcom was able to provide some clarification on the unemployment application process. Some of the information she provided:

For members who may have already completed their PUA application, the process is new to many. From this point, Attorney Morcom said according the PUA website, applications are being evaluated and adjustments are still being made to the system. Regular UC claims are processing out four to six weeks. She said it’s unknown at this juncture, the length of time until individuals begin receiving a response from the Office of Unemployment Compensation.

She said generally, those who have applied will see two types of determinations: a financial determination and a factual determination. A financial determination is related to income/wages earned and the factual determination sets for the facts that form the basis for why an individual is unemployed, identifies the law that applies, and whether the individual is eligible or ineligible for benefits based upon the facts.

We’ve also heard from members who believe they may have made a mistake in their PUA application, but they’re unable to edit their claim online, and calling the UC Office has been difficult. She recommended that if you have a concern about the content of the application, you can reach out via email at [email protected] Remember to include your full name, including any suffix, in the email and the last 4 digits of your social security number.

She encouraged patience when reaching out to the Office of UC. The office reported earlier this week that the response time is 23 days and in one day, they responded to more than 4,500 emails. If you send an email, you don’t need to call the office. And it’s recommended that you send only one email and use [email protected] address – don’t send multiple emails with the same issue.

Please view the video to see my conversation with Attorney Morcom.


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