The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) issued over $223 million last week to Georgians as the agency continues to implement the multiple phases of the Continued Assistance Act (CAA) included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 providing extended benefits for claimants on PEUC and PUA. The payments included benefits for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), State Extended Benefits (SEB), and Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) payments.
The GDOL is continuing to develop and implement the system changes needed to reprogram our UI system to issue payments to those eligible for the 11-week extensions provided by the CAA based on US Department of Labor requirements. The additional requirements must be integrated into the GDOL systems before eligible payments can be released. These requirements include additional proof of employment and self employment verification for PUA claimants, increased identification verification requirements, job refusal and failure to return to work reporting capabilities, additional fraud detection tools, and additional changes to the PEUC & PUA programs. The GDOL has already issued payments without interruption for those who had not exhausted PUA and PEUC benefits and continued to request weekly payments. The agency anticipates payments for claimants who exhausted benefits to begin within the next two weeks in a phased implementation as program changes are completed.
“Our IT and UI teams are working around the clock to implement the new guidelines that include complex requirements and programming,” said Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler. “The complexity of some of the additional specifications are challenging to program and will be an increased burden, not only on our UI staff, but to claimants, as well. They could’ve done this in a more simplified manner with more input from the states.”
The GDOL continues to update its website and social media platforms with up to date information on the implementation of the CAA and next steps for claimants. This week, the agency posted updates on the extension of benefits showing in a claimant’s My UI portal and the conversion of some SEB claims back to PEUC claims. The GDOL encourages claimants to continue to request weekly payments for those who have exhausted benefits or are waiting on determinations on eligibility. Determinations are continuing to be issued for claimants awaiting eligibility decisions when a job separation is other than lack of work or includes other potential issues that can affect eligibility, such as receipt of severance or retirement pay, refusal to accept suitable job offers, or failure to return to work. All eligible payments will be issued when a decision on eligibility is released, including any additional weeks of benefits a claimant could potentially be eligible for with the implementation of the new program extensions.
The GDOL continues to combat attempts of fraud and, this week, worked to have a fraudulent Facebook page removed that was targeting claimants asking for personal information. The agency immediately posted a warning on its social media platforms about the fraudulent page and reminded claimants to always protect personal information. The agency will never ask claimants for full social security numbers or copies of personal documents through any social platform. A claimant has the capability of uploading documentation directly into his/her My UI portal to avoid the risk of a personal information falling into the wrong hands.
The GDOL has paid over $17 billion in state and federal benefits since the beginning of the pandemic in March of last year. Since week ending March 21, 2020, 4,269,330 regular UI initial claims have been processed, more than the nine years prior to the pandemic combined (4.0 million). Last week, regular UI initial claims totaled 37,039, up 5,581 over the week. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 346,248 PUA claims have been processed.
The sectors with the most weekly regular UI initial claims processed included Manufacturing, 8,582, Accommodation and Food Services, 6,682, Administrative and Support Services, 4,595, Health Care and Social Assistance, 3,011, and Retail Trade, 2,206.
The number of initial unemployment claims filed throughout the United States for the week ending Jan. 9, was 965,000, an increase of 181,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 784,000.