Pennsylvanians laid off due to the widespread economic shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic can expect weekly government checks to begin arriving in the mail in the next two days, Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, announced Tuesday.

The $600 weekly unemployment checks were established by Congress as part of the $2.3 trillion economic rescue bill signed into law on March 27. The checks come on top of regular weekly unemployment benefits.

“I’m pleased that even as the state Office of Unemployment Compensation is beset with an unprecedented number of new claims, it has acted quickly,” Mr. Doyle said in a news release.

“Rolling out this financial assistance quickly will do a lot to support families struggling to make ends meet,” he added. “I will continue to monitor the implementation of the CARES Act and work to clear any bottlenecks that arise on the federal government’s end.”

The rescue bill created the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program to provide out-of-work American workers an extra $600 per week through July 25. The program is modeled on emergency unemployment assistance typically invoked for specific regions of the country during natural disasters like hurricanes — yet this time it was extended to the entire country.

In recent weeks, Pennsylvania’s unemployment offices have been overwhelmed with filings and calls related to the COVID-19 economic shutdown, which has thrown hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians out of work.

Mr. Doyle stated Tuesday that Pennsylvania labor officials are working to build an online platform for independent contractors and gig workers to apply for unemployment benefits. Those workers are usually excluded from unemployment benefits, but Congress’ rescue bill temporarily changed that.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced last week those workers can expect to start applying for those benefits within the next two weeks.

More information on applying for unemployment benefits can be found at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry website.

*By Daniel Moore via Post-Gazette Washington Bureau*