Op-ed by Art Haywood

Last October, the Pennsylvania General Assembly failed to approve the money for the operation of the unemployment service centers.

As a result, three of seven Unemployment Compensation Service Centers have been shut down and 520 state employees were laid off the week before Christmas.

I and many of my colleagues in Harrisburg warned that the lack of state funding would generate extensive delays in getting desperately needed checks to unemployed Pennsylvanians.

Less than two weeks into the year, my office alone has served many residents who complain that they cannot get their claims processed.

Some say that they have waited in lines of over two hours without getting an answer. They are worried and frustrated. We expect these numbers to climb as the backlog worsens.

All of this could have been avoided if the Senate Republicans merely allowed the Senate to vote on funding that the House and Governor approved last year.

One senator, Scott Wagner, of York County, has taken “credit” for the refusal to fund the positions. Senators in the GOP majority are responsible for this disaster.

While the House and Senate are now out on recess, hundreds of everyday people can’t get checks to pay rent, buy medicine, feed their families and pay for transportation as they look for work.

People who have already experienced the trauma of losing their job see their distress compounded when their unemployment is delayed. Hard-working Pennsylvanians are not being treated fairly.

Where have we seen this before?

The Senate majority also refused to allow a vote to raise the minimum wage, which has been stuck for over 10 years.

Millions of low-wage workers in Pennsylvania rely on public assistance to make it day-to-day because our minimum wage is stuck at $7.25 per hour.

Nineteen states raised the minimum wage effective January 1, but not Pennsylvania. We are trapped at the bottom.

Working people deserve fair pay for full-time work.

As the owner of Night Kitchen stated, “People who have full-time jobs shouldn’t receive government subsidies.” Those who have paid into the system deserve reasonable access to the funds they have worked for to create.

The Senate GOP is sticking it to everyday people twice: poverty pay minimum wage and delayed unemployment compensation if you are out of luck and out of a job. Hard-working people deserve fair pay.

Hard-working people deserve an unemployment compensation system that works.

It’s time for an end to the policies that disdain everyday working people. Once a vote is scheduled he Senate will pass paying for unemployment compensation and raising the minimum wage to at least $10 per hour with bipartisan support. We just need Senate GOP leaders to get out of the way and allow a vote.