Key Points from Senate Budget Hearings with Department of Labor and Industry, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

HARRISBURG – During a public hearing today, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee raised questions about the need for tens of millions of dollars in additional spending for Unemployment Compensation (UC) services when the state is experiencing a period of historically low unemployment.

Department of Labor and Industry

Much like the governor’s overall budget, proposed spending for the Department of Labor and Industry significantly underestimates expenses over the next five years and fails to take into consideration realistic growth.

Secretary Nancy Walker was questioned about her request to increase department staffing to COVID-era levels despite Pennsylvania experiencing low levels of unemployment.

Walker told the committee that $70 million in fraudulent unemployment compensation claims were sent out in 2023, and committee members sought details on how the department was trying to recoup the money.

Members also sought details on the new Career Pathways program, which appears to duplicate the services provided by PA CareerLink.

Full Hearing

Committee Chair Sen. Scott Martin on creating job opportunities for Pennsylvanians, job training, apprenticeship programs, workforce development, skills-based hiring, and more

Video Highlights

The governor’s budget included an additional $68 million for the Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund to improve UC services, despite the current period of low unemployment.

The state’s UC system paid $70 million worth of fraudulent claims in 2023.

Job classification issues could threaten Pennsylvania’s ability to make full use of federal dollars to expand broadband to unserved and underserved communities.

The department is aiming to get wait times down for UC calls to 15 minutes, but they have not yet achieved that goal.

Questions were raised regarding the use of funding for the Career Pathways initiative and how it is different from the services already offered through PA CareerLink.

Concerns were expressed about the increased costs of certain prevailing wage requirements.

Pennsylvania ranks slightly below the national average in terms of labor force participation.

The department was encouraged to continue to improve efforts to provide a broader range of apprenticeship programs to help connect more Pennsylvanians to quality jobs.

Approximately 80% of department employees work from home on at least a part-time basis.

A recent Commonwealth Court ruling pertaining to prescription drug costs for Workers’ Compensation participants could create severe financial challenges.

Concerns were raised regarding the current situation in the Department of Corrections in which some corrections officers are working 70-80 hour weeks on a weekly basis.

Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

Lawmakers discussed what the Pennsylvania National Guard would need to increase support at the U.S. border in Texas during a budget hearing with Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Mark J. Schindler.

Committee members also explored what the department was doing to ensure Pennsylvania’s 700,000 veterans know about benefits available to them and their families and offer assistance in applying.

The status of Veterans Treatment Courts – which help veterans charged with crimes and struggling with addiction or mental illness – was discussed, as well as homeless veterans.

Full Hearing

Sen. Martin on providing necessary resources to veterans, Veteran Service Officer Days, outreach to veterans, protecting the border, and more

Video Highlights

Numerous bills championed by Senate Republicans to support Pennsylvania’s veterans and military families were highlighted. Approximately a dozen bills have been approved by the Senate and await action in the House of Representatives.

The importance of codifying the state’s VetConnect program was discussed to ensure services are accessible for veterans and their families. Increased outreach and marketing for the program was also suggested.

Staffing at Pennsylvania Veterans Homes continues to pose a challenge.

The department operates 25 Veterans Treatment Courts throughout the state with plans to add another early this year.

The possibility of deploying the National Guard to support border security and reduce the flow of deadly fentanyl into the U.S. was discussed.

The committee received an update on National Guard members currently deployed and potential challenges in terms of outreach to veterans.

The department was encouraged to explore new solutions to help address veteran homelessness.

Concerns were shared about the potential impact of regional cell phone outages if National Guard members need to be recalled.

You can find recaps and video from every Senate budget hearing at

CONTACT: Jason Thompson

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