The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced recently that while it continues to see Georgians return to work, claimants continue to seek unemployment benefits.
The state agency has processed 4,828,381 regular unemployment insurance (UI) claims since March 21, 2020, more than the last 10 years prior to the pandemic combined (4.8 million). In addition to a high number of claims, the GDOL is combatting unemployment insurance fraud on multiple levels.
Over 60,000 individuals who have recently refiled for payments for a second year went back to work during the last year while still receiving unemployment benefits and did not report that they had returned to work. The claimant self attests that all information in the claim is accurate leading to potential fraud and overpayment charges. Also, almost 75 percent of individuals currently filing a claim are failing the identity verification requirement from the US Congress, indicating an overwhelming presence of fraudulent claims. Approximately 85 percent of current individual filers are not layoffs, but are individuals that have quit or have been fired from their job. These types of separations always require a hearing and are not typically eligible. All of these challenges require individual attention and are slowing the processing procedures.
“The current issues stem from a high number of claimants that have applied for their second year of benefits and have been found to possibly be committing fraud,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “Couple those investigations with the majority of recently filed claims failing to verify their identity and we are left manually sifting through a myriad of fraudulent claims searching for the small percentage that are actually valid.”
As of today, over 234,000 jobs are listed on EmployGeorgia for Georgians to access. Employ Georgia uses artificial intelligence to match an individual’s skills to potential jobs. Claimants receive access to job listings, support to upload up to five searchable resumes, job search assistance, career counseling, skills testing, job fair information, job training services, and accessibility and special accommodations for people with disabilities and veterans transitioning back into the workplace.
Claimants are being encouraged to register with Employ Georgia before weekly work search is mandated in late June to avoid interruptions in their payments. Video tutorials on how to register and utilize EmployGeorgia are available at https://employgeorgia.com//.
The GDOL has paid over $21.8 billion in state and federal benefits in the past sixty weeks. Last week, the GDOL issued $184.8 million in benefits, which included regular unemployment and federally funded Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) supplements, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), and State Extended Benefits.
Last week, regular UI initial claims totaled 24,553, down 888 over the week. Initial claims are defined as any notice of unemployment filed to request a determination of entitlement to or eligibility of unemployment insurance compensation OR to begin a second or subsequent period of eligibility within a benefit year. Initial claims numbers are not a direct correlation to layoffs. Additionally, the agency currently has 192,870 active PUA claims.
The sectors with the most weekly regular UI initial claims processed included Accommodation and Food Services, 5,140, Administrative and Support Services, 2,033, Manufacturing, 1,460, Retail Trade, 1,365, and Transportation and Warehousing, 923.