Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), established under the March Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, has provided almost $1.7 billion in benefits to over 323,000 Georgians during the pandemic. PUA provides unemployment benefits to those who are not usually eligible for regular state benefits, but lose work, through no fault of their own, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many of these have included gig workers, independent contractors, employees of churches and non-profits, or those with limited work history who do not qualify for regular state unemployment benefits. For many of these recipients, self-employed and IRS Form 1099 workers in the state of Georgia, these benefits have already stopped or will be exhausting in the next few weeks after reaching the 39-week limit in accordance with federal program guidelines.
Over 25,000 PUA claimants could potentially exhaust benefits in the next two weeks 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 determine whether any extension programs will be enacted.
“The PUA program issued benefits to many in the self-employed community allowing these individuals to recoup a portion of the wages lost when their businesses had to shut down due to the pandemic,” said Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Butler. “Federal programs, like PUA and other disaster-related programs, are intended to temporarily provide support for those displaced during a crisis. Never before have we seen a federal program rolled out on a nationwide scale within such a demanding timeframe to so many people.”
Today, over 168,000 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. GDOL’s Business Services Unit hosts job fairs for businesses across Georgia and promotes employment positions regularly on EmployGeorgia.
Last Monday, the GDOL launched its pilot program for the agency’s on-line appointment scheduler. The scheduler found on the agency’s website at https://dol.georgia.gov/appointment allows claimants to request an appointment with a claims representative to ask questions regarding their claim. Each appointment is assigned a two hour window in which a representative calls the claimant. The initial two weeks of appointment slots filled quickly after the scheduler launched filling over 2,800 appointments for the pilot period. More appointments will be added next Monday for the following week.
Georgians have received more than $15.5 billion in unemployment insurance benefits since March of this year, more than the past 28 years combined. Last week, the GDOL dispersed over $170 million in benefits, which included $55 million in regular unemployment and more than $6 million in federally funded Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) supplements, $39 million in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), $51 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), $13 million in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), and $5 million in State Extended Benefits.
Last week regular UI initial claims totaled 37,253, down 6,442 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 have been released for claims that require neither additional determinations or validation for separation. If a separation is due to reasons 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 claimant eligibility. This review can potentially delay payments.
The sectors with the most weekly regular UI initial claims processed included Accommodation and Food Services, 7,869, Administrative and Support Services, 4,194, Health Care and Social Assistance, 3,490, Retail Trade, 3,438, and Manufacturing, 3,341. 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. 31 was 751,000, a decrease of 7,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 758,000.