Atlanta, GA – The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced today the Nov. 2 launch of a pilot program for an on-line appointment scheduler. This scheduler will allow claimants to request an appointment with a claims representative to ask questions regarding their claim. Each appointment will be assigned a two hour window in which a representative will call the claimant. An initial two weeks of appointment slots will schedule almost 3,000 appointments during the pilot period.
 
"The addition of this online tool will further our ability to address claim issues," said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. "We have been adding personnel to our staff to help with general responses and this addition will allow our experienced staff to focus on resolving claimant issues more efficiently."
 
Claimants are urged to be ready to discuss his/her claim during the time frame allotted. Additional time slots will be added each Monday for the following week. On Monday, Nov. 2, the appointment scheduler will be available on the GDOL website and will be highlighted under the Spotlight area on the homepage.

Georgians have received more than $15 billion in unemployment insurance benefits since March of this year, more than the past 27 years combined. Last week, the GDOL dispersed over $168 million in benefits, which included $61 million in regular unemployment and almost $7 million in federally funded Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) supplements, $35 million in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), $49 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), $10 million in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), and $5 million in State Extended Benefits.

Since March of this year, over 322,000 Georgians have received payments from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program developed as part of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) to provide benefits for eligible 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. In accordance with federal guidelines, PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to qualifying individuals who are otherwise able and available to work except they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to COVID-19 related reasons, as defined in the CARES Act. Next week, up to 70,000 of these PUA claimants will potentially exhaust benefits having received payments for the maximum 39 weeks.
 
The CARES Act does not include any provisions for additional extended benefits beyond the 39 weeks of PUA. Federal extension programs are enacted by the US Congress. The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) does not control whether any extension programs will be in effect.
 
"We have issued over $1.6 billion in PUA benefits in seven months after building a system from scratch in record time for individuals that have never been part of the unemployment system before," said Commissioner Butler. "This program was able to provide support to over 322,000 Georgians during the pandemic helping to get these individuals back in business."
 
Today, over 167,000 jobs are listed online at EmployGeorgia for Georgians to access. These job opportunities have more than doubled since the April 2020 listing of just 73,000 jobs.
The GDOL offers online resources for finding careers, building a resume, and assisting with other reemployment needs. Employment opportunities include human resource specialists, restaurant managers, bookkeepers, 911 operators, licensed practical nurses, and many more. Wages are highly competitive and range from $10 to $75 per hour to over $100k for annual salaried employment.
 
Last week regular UI initial claims totaled 43,695, down 1,197 over the week. The GDOL has worked diligently to dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to release payments and is now processing regular UI claims within a week of a claim file date. All eligible payments are released for claims that do not require additional determinations or do not need to validate the reason for separation. If a claimant has a separation reason other than lack of work, such as a quit, discharge, leave of absence, or receipt of severance/retirement pay, additional review will be necessary to determine eligibility. This review could potentially delay payments.
 
From week ending 3/21/2020 through 10/24/2020, the sectors with the most regular UI initial claims processed included Accommodation and Food Services, 950,239, Health Care and Social Assistance, 456,145, Retail Trade, 419,395, Administrative and Support Services, 343,845, and Manufacturing, 311,284. Many claimants in the Accommodation and Food Services division have utilized the $300 earnings exemption rule allowing workers to earn wages and still receive unemployment benefits. An individual can make up to $300 per week without reducing their maximum weekly benefit amount, allowing employees to work reduced hours and still qualify for state weekly benefits.
 
The number of initial unemployment claims filed throughout the United States for the week ending Oct. 24 was 751,000, a decrease of 40,000 from the previous week's revised level of 791,000.
 
Resources for reemployment assistance along with information on filing an unemployment claim and details on how employers can file partial claims can be found on the agency's webpage at dol.georgia.gov.