Argall, Knowles call for investigation into Labor and Industry fund transfers

HARRISBURG – Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) and Representative Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill) are calling on the Attorney General, Auditor General and Inspector General to investigate exhausted funds leading to the anticipated layoff of 600 call center employees within the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Bruce Beemer, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Acting Inspector General Tyrone Powell, Sen. Argall and Rep. Knowles asked for a comprehensive investigation as to how funding provided through a temporary transfer over four years has been spent.

“We cannot continue to allow the bureaucracy to spend over $50 million each year without any oversight,” Argall said. “The department has known since 2013 that this funding would end, so the sudden need for all of these staff furloughs is beyond me.”

Argall is referring to a November 17 news release from the Department of Labor and Industry stating that without the Senate acting on a legislative proposal, over 600 staff members within the department would lose their jobs. House Bill 2375 would allow the department to transfer $57.5 million collected by the Unemployment Compensation (UC) Fund to the Unemployment Compensation Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund, also known as SIIF. A 2013 law allowed for a temporary four-year transfer of UC funds to the SIIF as a result of reduced federal funds to pay for call center employees.

“I have grave concerns about allegations of wasteful spending within our state government agencies, and I am hopeful that we can get some answers as a result of this investigation,” Knowles said.

In their letter, Argall and Knowles ask for an investigation into how the Department of Labor and Industry spent funding transferred from the Unemployment Compensation Fund to the Unemployment Compensation Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund over the last four years. They also ask the investigation to include whether or not the money was utilized as prescribed by law.

“When the head of a major labor union starts questioning how funds were spent, you know there is a problem,” Knowles said, referring to comments made by Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council, in a recent interview with Capitolwire. Sirianni’s organization did not support the legislation due to lack of accountability with the current funds that were transferred over the last four years.

“I’m hopeful we can resolve this issue soon for the men and women who are affected, but most importantly, I want to ensure these government funds are being spent the way the law intended them,” Argall said. “Are we investing in new technology and making upgrades to be more efficient and sustainable? Those are questions we want answered and I think the taxpayers have a right to know.”