Lehigh Valley

Lines long at Allentown's CareerLink office

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - People seeking unemployment benefits at CareerLink in Allentown are playing the waiting game. Some are looking for employment, while others are trying to get the unemployment office on the line.

Ronald Hermann waited nearly five hours, along with 150 other people, to use one of two phones linked directly to the state office.

CareerLink centers in Allentown, Reading and Lancaster said they have seen a dramatic increase in people using these phones.

"I am happy for the resource of the UC phone line, because you can't get through to them at all," said union worker Jeff Hale.

Hale, like others waiting in line, said he tried to reach the UC office on his home phone, but to no avail.

"You could get through on the lines here quicker than you can on your home phone, so we came down here to call and we are still waiting," said a woman named Linda, who was waiting in line with her husband, Paul, a construction worker.

Officials said the phone line spike came after the unemployment compensation offices in Allentown, Altoona and Lancaster were closed last month and their workers laid off.

The closures are casualty of what state Rep. Peter Schweyer said is a funding battle between Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Republican leaders. He said the bill to fund the offices was passed by the House, but stalled in the Senate.

Schweyer said he will submit a bill to fund the shuttered offices when the Legislature resumes January 23. He said the problem is because the funding was allowed to lapse, building lease expirations, the rehiring process and training could slow momentum.

69 News contacted state Sen. Pat Browne's office, seeking his take on funding the unemployment offices. Our calls were not returned before this article was posted.

Until the funding issue is resolved, CareerLink officials said they anticipate the phone lines will remain long and had this advice for anyone wanting to use them.

"The earlier, the best time to come is certainly early. The earlier you come the lower number you get," said Nancy Dischinat, the executive director of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board.

Dischinat said the Allentown office has been doing its best to make sure those waiting in line are able to make good use of their time.

"We just tried to put out some refreshments and talk to them and tell them what are the services we have going on and make sure they understand we are trying to help in any way possible," said Dischinat.

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