The Georgia Department of Labor announced today it paid over $1 billion in unemployment benefits last week, more than the $922 million issued over the past three years combined. The state paid over $143 million in regular unemployment benefits and distributed over $886 million in 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 $10.5 billion has been paid to eligible Georgians in unemployment benefits.
“The fact that we paid more than $1 billion in benefits in five days is a huge accomplishment,” said Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler. “When you think that the average weekly benefit amount is $246, the sheer volume of payments we are issuing is phenomenal.”
From 3/21 through 7/18, 3,209,144 regular UI initial claims have been processed, more than in the last seven years combined (2.7 million). Of these claims processed, 1,102,505 were identified as valid claims. When a request for payment was made, 91 percent have been paid. The invalid claims could potentially be duplicate filed claims or those without enough earned wages to receive benefits.
Last week, claims were down 16,139 from the week prior for a total of 122,313 for week ending 7/18. Initial claims totals are still high prompting an increase in fraud investigations.
“We are seeing suspected fraud in all shapes and sizes requiring us to split our time between valid claims and potentially fraudulent ones,” said Commissioner Butler. “We are working with state and federal law enforcement agencies to prosecute the bad actors who are monopolizing our time with fraudulent claims and keeping us from focusing on getting eligible Georgians paid their benefits.”
The GDOL actively works to prevent fraud with a variety of detection measures ranging from encryption, multi-agency verification, and financial checks and balances. If fraud does take place, the GDOL pursues the suspects to recover the funds and prosecute, if necessary.
The number of initial unemployment claims filed throughout the United States for the week ending July 18 was 1,416,000, an increase of 109,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 1,307,000.
Last week, the GDOL issued nearly $156 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments to 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. From week ending 3/21/2020 through 7/18/2020, 317,895 PUA claims have been validated. Of the valid PUA claims eligible for payment where a request for payment has been made, 89 percent have been issued.
In addition, the total federal funds issued to Georgians for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) totaled over $722 million last week. Over the past 17 weeks, the GDOL has issued more than $7.2 billion in FPUC funds. FPUC provides an additional $600 weekly payment to any individual eligible for any of the unemployment compensation programs – state and federal. The FPUC program is scheduled to end with the week ending July 25, 2020.
From week ending 3/21/2020 through 7/18/2020, the sectors with the most regular UI initial claims processed included Accommodation and Food Services, 768,931, Health Care and Social Assistance, 376,269, Retail Trade, 352,846, Administrative and Support Services, 268,417, and Manufacturing, 245,618.
As of 7/21/2020, the trust fund balance was $705,601,822, down $1.842 billion, or 72 percent, from the 3/24/2020 balance of $2,547,476,454.
Today, over 116,000 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.
Information on filing an unemployment claim, details on how employers can file partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at dol.georgia.gov.