The Georgia Department of Labor has recently been asked why not all initial unemployment insurance (UI) claims from the middle of March have not been paid. 92% of all valid claims have received benefits in the past 19 weeks where a payment has been requested, but many of the others are not eligible for payment per state and federal law. Over 135,000 claims have been filed by claimants who have not worked at all in the past 18 months making them ineligible for regular UI payments. Of the 65,000 claims that have not been paid to date and are valid to be paid, 20,000 of them have already been deemed ineligible after a review by the department and over 38,000 must still have their eligibility determined due to the claimant’s reason for employment separation or the receipt of other financial payments, including severance or retirement pay. 32,614 individuals are eligible to receive benefits, but have never requested a payment.
“Unemployment insurance is not a guaranteed benefit,” said Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler. “Each claim has to be thoroughly reviewed for eligibility and verified before payments can be issued. A claimant may not be granted benefits if they have not worked and earned insured wages in the past 18 months or were fired for cause or quit a job of their own accord. Many times the employer and employee have different versions of what happened and that takes even longer to gather information for a complete decision.”
A few of the most basic eligibility requirements are:
- Claimant must have sufficient insured wages
- Claimant must have job separation from the last employer due to no fault of their own
- Claimant must have proof of lawful presence in the United States
- Claimant must be able, available, and actively searching for suitable work. Work search requirements have been waived during the state of emergency, but claimants must attest each week they are able and available for work.
- Claimant’s identification (name, address, social security information), etc. must match what is entered on their claim
- Claimants must not file more than one claim. Duplicate claims are a major source of our program reconciliation. When our system recognizes the same name or similar name with same social security number, the claim must be reviewed, resolved, and reconciliated in the system before any benefits can be released.
The Unemployment Insurance (UI) program provides short-term financial assistance to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. The purpose of the program is to bridge the gap between jobs by providing funds that will allow individuals the opportunity to search for employment. In Georgia, regular state unemployment benefits are paid from a UI Trust Fund, which is fully funded by employers who pay UI taxes. These taxes cannot be deducted from employee’s wages.
Of the other remaining outstanding claims that are valid to be paid, 5,000 require manual child support calculations and 3,000 need identity verification. The GDOL is implementing new tools to address some of these issues including the ability to upload documents directly to a claimant’s My UI portal. This upload capability will allow the individual to provide a copy of one’s social security card, driver’s license, or birth certificate. The agency is also finalizing a product that will allow claimants to request an online appointment. These tools should be available for use in the next few weeks. All outstanding claims are being addressed by specialized teams within GDOL and eligible payments will be released as soon as possible.
“The claims that have gotten to this point require a hearing between claimant and employer to determine eligibility,” said Commissioner Butler. “We must maintain a fair and equitable process to ensure the integrity of the UI program.”
The GDOL also announced last week that for the week ending August 1, claims totaled 73,931, down 11,053 from the last week in July. The agency issued $734 million in regular unemployment benefits and federal funds including Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) payments, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) supplements, and State Extended Benefits. Since March 21, almost $12 billion has been paid to eligible Georgians in unemployment benefits.
As of last week, 3,368,059 regular UI initial claims have been processed, more than the last eight years combined (3.3 million). Of these claims processed, 1,494,252 were identified as valid claims. The invalid claims could potentially be duplicate filed claims or those without enough earned or any wages to receive benefits.
The number of initial unemployment claims filed throughout the United States for the week ending 8/1 was 1,186,000, a decrease of 249,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 1,435,000.
Last week, the GDOL issued more than $66 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments to 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. The PUA program may provide benefits to claimants that did not have enough wages to establish a valid regular state UI claim but were prohibited from employment due to COVID-19. From week ending 3/21/2020 through 8/1/2020, 322,968 PUA claims have been validated. Of the valid PUA claims eligible for payment where a request for payment has been made, 85 percent have been issued.
In addition, the total federal funds issued to Georgians for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) totaled over $523 million last week. Over the past 19 weeks, the GDOL has issued more than $8.3 billion in FPUC funds. FPUC provided an additional $600 weekly payment to any individual eligible for both state and federal unemployment compensation programs. The FPUC program ended July 31, 2020. If the U.S. Congress decides to extend or change the supplement, the GDOL will update its website and social platforms to reflect the new program.
From week ending 3/21/2020 through 8/1/2020, the sectors with the most regular UI initial claims processed included Accommodation and Food Services, 802,990, Health Care and Social Assistance, 398,353, Retail Trade, 368,039, Administrative and Support Services, 281,998, and Manufacturing, 261,601.
As of 8/4/2020, the trust fund balance was $504,184,661, down $2.043 billion, or 80 percent, from the 3/24/2020 balance of $2,547,476,454.
Today, over 122,000 jobs are listed online at EmployGeorgia.com for Georgians to access. The GDOL offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume, and assisting with other reemployment needs.
At this time, GDOL career centers are remaining closed to the public. All online services are still available as the staff continues to answer calls, process claims, respond to customer inquiries, and provide assistance to applicants. The GDOL will reopen offices to the public as soon as social distancing can be effectively implemented to protect both staff and customers.