Atlanta, GA – The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) has received and documented 92 percent of the claims filed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the middle of March (week ending March 21, 2020), GDOL has processed 1,369,421 regular initial unemployment claims. Of these claims, 725,000 were valid with enough earned wages to set up a claim and 444,195 Georgians have already received their first payment - 62 percent of all those filing for unemployment. Traditionally, GDOL statistics show only 40 to 50 percent of initial claims are eligible to receive an initial payment based on established criteria.
Individuals with invalid claims could potentially be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). 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. Last week, the GDOL began sending emails to applicants potentially eligible for the PUA program to continue their application for federal benefits. This week, 41,000 PUA applications were processed and approved for payment. Payments began to be issued on Thursday, April 23, 2020. Applicants are continuing to be identified as potential PUA recipients when deemed ineligible for state benefits and directed to apply for the federal benefits.
“Our employees are managing unprecedented numbers of claims and are getting people paid,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “To say that we have issued more payments in the past six weeks than in the past four years combined is quite an accomplishment.”
Of the remaining unpaid claims, many are still in the claims process awaiting eligibility determination. This also includes claims where duplicate claims have been filed, identification has been requested, excessive weekly earnings have been reported, or child support stops have been issued. These claims require additional handling and the GDOL is working diligently to address many of these stops.
Last week alone, GDOL processed 266,565 claims, up 19,000 from the week prior. Of the weekly total, 185,782 were employer filed claims. In the past six weeks, of all claims determined to be eligible, approximately 540,000 (75 percent) were employer filed partial claims and 185,000 (25 percent) were filed individually. The number of initial unemployment claims filed throughout the United States decreased to 3.8 million last week.
The sectors with the most initial claims in the past six weeks included Accommodation and Food Services, 396,209, Health Care and Social Assistance, 157,496, Retail Trade, 156,123, Administrative and Support Services, 109,483, and Manufacturing, 105,122.
“The Accommodation and Food Service sector has truly suffered during this pandemic,” said Butler. “We hope that employers and employees can work together to find a return to work plan that can work for both parties allowing for continued financial support from state and federal programs as we gradually reopen Georgia for business.”
Commissioner Butler continues to promote the emergency rule stating that earnings of $300 or less will not affect entitlement to benefits. Any amount earned over $300 will be deducted from a claimant’s weekly benefit amount, a payment determination based on an employee’s past wages. As long as a claimant is awarded at least $1 in state or federal benefits, he or she is eligible to receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), the additional $600 weekly payment.
Last week, the GDOL issued regular weekly UI benefits totaling $155,207,136, up $54 million over the previous week. Over the last six weeks, $388 million has been paid in regular UI benefits, more than the annual total for each of the previous four years. The average weekly benefit amount is $276.
In addition, the total federal funds issued for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, or FPUC, totaled over $336 million last week. Over the past six weeks, the GDOL has issued over $700 million in federal funds. FPUC provides an additional $600 weekly payment to any individual eligible for any of the Unemployment Compensation programs - State and Federal.
As of 4/28/2020, the Georgia Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Balance was $2,092,486,809, down $455 million, or 18 percent, from the 3/24/2020 balance of $2,547,000,000. Through 4/28/2020, $119 million has been collected in tax revenue for the year.
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 106,000 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 employerscan file partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at www.gdol.ga.gov.