Since March 14, the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) has processed over 861,000 claims, 10% of Georgia’s population.
The GDOL announced Thursday, April 16, that the agency processed 319,581 initial claims during the week of March 29 through April 4. When coupled with the week of April 5-11 claim numbers, this totals over 700,000 claimants in two weeks. Unemployment initial claims throughout the United States topped 5.2 million April 5-11.
“We are reaching unprecedented claim levels of almost one million Georgians filing for unemployment,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “That is one in every ten people who are turning to the GDOL for unemployment assistance. This is a massive undertaking, but one that I know we are capable of achieving.”
The GDOL has issued over $509 million in state and federal benefits since the middle of March. Over 290,600 Georgians were paid benefits April 5-11. Last year, 149,725 individuals received benefits, an amount equal to less than half of the claimants who received payment April 5-11.
Starting April 12, the GDOL began issuing the $600 federal supplemental payments for those currently receiving state unemployment benefits. GDOL made 286,000 payments Tuesday night, April 14, that included regular state weekly payments and the additional $600 weekly payments.
GDOL is currently programming its computer system to pay out federal benefits for those who wouldn’t be eligible for typical unemployment benefits. This group consists of self-employed, gig workers, 1,099 independent contractors, employees of churches, employees of non-profits, or those with limited work history who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits. These individuals must be determined ineligible to receive state benefits before being evaluated for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). GDOL will begin sending out emails April 19 to potential applicants based on their state unemployment application.
GDOL has received an overwhelming number of calls, emails, and messages from applicants concerned about their claims. The agency is working to automate many steps of the unemployment process to reduce the time necessary to issue payments. During the 2009 recession year, the GDOL processed a million claims with more than 2,000 staff members. Today, the GDOL is processing that number in a month with less than 1,000 staff members. The agency is still required by the state and federal government to verify wages, a time-consuming process. The GDOL is hiring staff and asking retirees to come back and help during this crisis. The department is asking applicants to use online resources found on the GDOL website at www.dol.georgia.gov before contacting the agency. This will allow staff to focus on claimants whose issues require system adjustments. On April 15, there were over 380,000 users on the website, almost double the traffic seen during all of February. The agency has implemented a new ChatBot feature that answered over 84,000 questions on April 15.
“We are encouraging people to take a look at on-line resources before you pick up the phone to call us,” said Commissioner Butler. “We are going to have to work together to get people paid and back to work as quickly as possible.”
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. Over 99,000 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 must file partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at www.gdol.ga.gov.