Markets amid coronavirus

A sign urging people to help stop the spread of germs is seen on the door at Lancaster Central Market on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, one day after Gov. Tom Wolf announced that all non-essential businesses should close down for two weeks amid the coronavirus outbreak. Central Market took away all the tables and chairs and asked that customers would get what they need and leave to help limit people inside market.

A federal agency’s criticisms of the accuracy of state unemployment claim data do not apply to the tallies reported weekly by LNP | LancasterOnline, state and local officials said Thursday.

The Government Accountability Office said Monday that backlogs at the state level have led to undercounts while repeat counting of filers has let to overcounts.

At the same time, states are underpaying claimants because they’re doling out the minimum benefits rather than basing the benefits on the claimants’ previous earnings, the GAO said.

However, those concerns are irrelevant to the claims figures cited in LNP | LancasterOnline’s weekly coverage, said Sarah DeSantis, the press secretary for the state Department of Labor & Industry, which gathers unemployment data statewide, and Valerie Hatfield, strategic innovation officer for the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board, which extracts local figures from the state-gathered data.

The GAO was addressing claims filed under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, DeSantis said. The pandemic program, created by Congress this year, focuses on so-called “gig economy” workers – people who are self-employed – in the last 18 months and who lost some or all of their work due to the pandemic.

In contrast, the board provides LNP | LancasterOnline with the volumes of initial and continued claims filed by Lancaster Countians for regular unemployment compensation. This program applies to people who were an employee in the last 18 months, then lost their jobs or had their hours reduced through no fault of their own.

Jahmai Sharp, another spokesman for the Department of Labor & Industry, said the GAO’s criticisms of the pandemic program’s administration don’t apply to Pennsylvania either.

The department calculates payments based on previous earnings and draws the distinction between the number of claims filed and the claimants served, according to Sharp.

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