May. 01, 2020 / Newspaper Columns

By State Rep. Tommy Sankey, 73rd Legislative District  

The overwhelming majority of calls and emails fielded by my staff and me deal with unemployment, and it’s getting frustrating.

Our office is a “catch all” for state government information, which we then disseminate to our constituents. Right now, three out of four calls are from unemployed people trying to figure out where they are in the process of applying for compensation. They don’t contact us to hear “Did you try…” or “I don’t know…” But until Harrisburg starts focusing on these people who are hurting, the level of anger and frustration is only going to escalate.

I’m particularly disappointed with Gov. Wolf’s recent creation of a COVID-19 “snitch line,” where Pennsylvanians can report any person or business they witness violating the state’s stay-at-home and business closure orders. Either someone is being paid to monitor this site and distribute the appropriate information to local law enforcement, or it is merely a vehicle for collecting email addresses to be used in some manner. Gov. Wolf, please take down this site and call off the pack of watchdogs you’re assembling. This is an incredible waste of taxpayer dollars, especially in a time when we should be looking to unify, not be divisive.

Take the IT staff and money you used to create this and reallocate it for people who can fix an unemployment compensation application system that is failing people and businesses that are beyond hurting.

I’m also calling out the governor on his recently announced “Pursue Your Hominess” campaign to encourage Pennsylvanians to “virtually” explore travel options through the state’s tourism website.

The problem? Gee, where do I start? Asking our citizens to plan their next vacation while they try to figure out how to pay their bills. Showing them places to visit while they figure out how to buy a car online so they can get to work without test driving it since dealerships are closed and theirs broke down and cost too much to be repaired. Trying to resurrect tourism on the cheap after years of cutting funding for it while other states advertise here.

Anyone who is unemployed probably wishes they had money for each time they’ve been told to “Hang in there.” Telling them that again has a hollow ring to it.

Our tourism slogan is “Pursue Your Happiness.” Most people need a job and income to do that. Governor, you say the system is overburdened. So are your constituents. Please abandon your ambitious spending plan for a moment and spend time on those who are counting on you for answers.

We need to put as many technological resources and assets as we have into addressing this problem. Find them and focus them. Work with a neighbor, no matter their party affiliation. If you need help, admit it and raise your hand. It’s what good leaders do.

Representative Tommy Sankey
73rd District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives