Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced Thursday, May 14, that the Georgia Department of Labor has developed a program that will allow employer-filed partial claims to be converted to individual claims. This new process will allow employees who are permanently terminated the opportunity to continue receiving benefits without interruption.

“It is our continuing goal to create workforce solutions,” Butler said. “This program will allow employees who have been permanently laid off the opportunity to instantly convert their claim to an individual one ensuring continued benefits without having to refile their claim.”

As employers reopen their businesses, many have had questions on the process for transitioning employees from unemployment back to employment. The GDOL will begin rolling out the Claims Conversion Program during the week of May 17-23 with a series of webinars explaining options for getting employees back to work. In the past, when an employer permanently laid off an employee, the employee then had to file an individual claim, a process now taking more than 30 days. With this new program, this conversion will be made immediately without the employee having to refile the claim. The Claims Conversion Program will outline the steps for employees working reduced hours, permanent layoffs, employee refusals to return to work, severance packages, and other employment challenges.

“We are working with employers to help them meet their business needs,” Butler said. “In the meantime, we are continuing to encourage employers to file weekly on behalf of their employees until we can get the system implemented.”

The GDOL has issued over $2.4 billion in combined state and federal unemployment benefits in the past eight weeks. Since the middle of March (week ending March 21, 2020), GDOL has processed 1,840,365 regular initial unemployment claims. Of these claims, 812,281 were valid with enough earned wages to receive benefits and 575,000 Georgians (85% of all eligible claimants) have already received their first payment.

“We have issued an unemployment payment to more than 575,000 people in the state of Georgia,” Butler said. “That is more recipients than the past four years combined.”

Those individuals eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) received $29 million in unemployment benefits during the week of May 3-9. This includes individuals who are self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, employees of churches, employees of non-profits, or those with limited work history who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits. As of the week of May 3-9, 108,097 PUA applications were processed and are eligible for payment (81% of all PUA claims received). Almost 50% of applicants have filed a claim, but still have not requested a payment. In order to receive benefits, applicants must request payments for each eligible week. Applicants are continuing to be identified as potential PUA recipients when deemed ineligible for state benefits and directed to apply for federal benefits.

During the week of May 3-9, GDOL processed 242,772 claims. Of the weekly total, 174,894 were employer filed claims, 72% of all claims. The number of initial unemployment claims filed throughout the United States was 2.98 million during that week, a decrease of 195,000 from the previous week.

In the past eight weeks, the sectors with the most regular UI initial claims included Accommodation and Food Services, 493,600, Health Care and Social Assistance, 221,519, Retail Trade, 211,032, Administrative and Support Services, 147,834, and Manufacturing, 139,566.

During May 3-9, the GDOL issued regular weekly UI benefits totaling $176,279,896. Over the last eight weeks, almost $800 million has been paid in regular UI benefits.

In addition, the total federal funds issued for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, or FPUC, totaled over $450 million May 3-9. Over the past eight weeks, the GDOL has issued over $1.5 billion in federal FPUC funds. FPUC provides an additional $600 weekly payment to any individual eligible for any of the unemployment compensation programs – state and federal.

As of May 5, the Georgia Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Balance was $1,977,793,671, down $569 million from the previous week’s balance.

At this time, the GDOL career centers are remaining closed to the public. All online services are still available as the staff continues to answer phones, return emails, and assist applicants. The GDOL will open offices to the public as soon as social distancing can be effectively implemented to protect both staff and customers.

The GDOL is also continuing to work with employers to get Georgians back to work. Employers have been contacting the GDOL with job opportunities that are critical during this crisis – some in the workplace and others that can be done from home. Today, over 101,000 jobs are listed online at www.EmployGeorgia.com for Georgians to access. The GDOL offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume, and assisting with other reemployment needs.

Information on filing an unemployment claim, details on how employers can file partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at dol.georgia.gov.

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