March 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, and of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians newly filing for unemployment benefits. As in all states, in Pennsylvania, standard unemployment compensation lasts up to 52 weeks from when a person first files a claim, at which point their eligibility for further benefits must be redetermined. However, those receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance rather than standard unemployment benefits did not need to take action in order to continue receiving payments. The difference in these “benefit year end” processes caused increased confusion and stress for many claimants.
“Partnering with USDR has been so helpful for us. USDR’s work on our website is going to pay a lot of dividends for Pennsylvanians who are frustrated and looking for information quickly.”
— Joe Lee, Deputy Secretary for Administration, Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry
Government Team Lead
Within one week, the USDR team created a no-code, interactive tool using JotForm and branching logic, which redirects users through the tool based on their individual circumstances. In order to improve the user experience, USDR’s pro bono team simplified the language and content to help people better understand which type of benefits they were receiving and whether the benefit year end was applicable to them. Using JotForm’s date input and conditional logic, the tool helps determine whether the user is requesting information before or after their benefit year end date and also helps estimate the amount of benefits received. The tool’s user-friendly features are helping Pennsylvanians quickly understand what the benefit year end is, and whether they need to re-apply for benefits.
Within the first six weeks of the tool being available on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry website, it was seen 1.1 million times and used more than 60,000 times. It is still live, helping eligible Pennsylvanians understand how to continue to receive unemployment benefits as the COVID pandemic continues.
One user told the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, “If I hadn’t [used the tool], I’d think, ‘I’m going to have to reapply all over again.’ And that would have caused me a continued nightmare, and lack of sleep.”
“I love that we were able to provide our trusted partners in Pennsylvania with a simple no-code solution that was implemented in days, not weeks or months.”
— Alyssa Levitz, USDR Project Lead
The USDR team is available, on a pro-bono basis, to help nonprofits and governments respond to their communities’ most critical needs.
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