ATLANTA – Today, Governor Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) addressed the unprecedented demand for economic relief for Georgians as witnessed in the recent unemployment claims numbers released this morning by the US Department of Labor. This morning, Governor Kemp signed an Executive Order allowing GDOL Commissioner Mark Butler to issue two new emergency rules.
“As we work together as a state to combat COVID-19, Commissioner Butler and I are taking steps to ensure Georgia’s workforce is supported during this challenging time,” said Governor Kemp. “I ask Georgians to continue to support their local businesses by getting take-out, tipping well, and ordering your favorite products online, while also observing social distancing and following the directives of state and federal public health officials.”
For the week of March 15 through March 21, claims processed in Georgia increased to 12,140 initial claims, up 6,695 from the previous week’s 5,445 claims. The GDOL anticipates substantially higher claims in the coming weeks already seeing a higher number of claims than were filed during the 2008-2009 recession. In the first week of March, the GDOL saw 59,000 users on the website and yesterday reported 110,000 in one day.
The GDOL tackled this issue directly with the implementation of new emergency rules for unemployment benefits. One extends the length of time an individual can collect benefits from 14 weeks to 26 weeks. Another rule provides that the first $300 of wages earned in a week will not count against eligible unemployment benefits paid. For example, if an individual has been laid off and takes a part-time job, he/she can now make up to $300 during the week and still receive their full unemployment amount.
“We understand Georgia businesses and workers are anxious during the COVID-19 public health crisis about how to take care of themselves, their families, and their businesses,” said Butler. “We are making unprecedented modifications to policies to help all Georgians survive this economic hardship and get us all back to work.”
Other emergency rules were issued last week which expanded unemployment eligibility for applicants, suspended work search requirements, and relieved employers of benefit charges for COVID-19 related claims. Georgia unemployment benefits have now been expanded to cover individuals temporarily unable to work due to the COVID-19 public health emergency who plan to return to work when the emergency ceases.
Another rule assures that employers and non-profits will not be charged for COVID-19 related benefit claims. This means that their current tax rate will not be affected relieving them of the additional burden of higher unemployment taxes during our recovery.
Commissioner Butler also clarified that partial claims should be filed for both full-time and part-time employees. Filing of partial claims is being mandated for an employer to file on behalf of employees affected by COVID-19 and will expedite the issuance of payment. This process will also relieve the employer from having to certify each individual employee which would have extended the process by weeks.
In addition, work search and other in-person requirements are temporarily waived for benefit claimants. All of the GDOL emergency rules can be found on the agency’s website at https://dol.georgia.gov/laws-and-rules/gdol-rules
To assist applicants in the claims process, the GDOL has also implemented a new Claims Status Dashboard, an advancement not scheduled to be launched until Fall 2020, that will allow applicants to track their claim. New configuration changes are being made daily to improve the application process for individuals and employers.
GDOL is 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. 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