LEGISLATORS AND ADVOCACY GROUPS DEMAND AN END TO GEORGIA’S ONGOING UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS
Georgians continue to suffer as the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) continues to have huge delays in sending unemployment benefits or processing appeals for families in need. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia’s unemployment rate rose to 12.6%. Today more than 135,000 Georgians remain unemployed and thousands have filed for unemployment benefits.
In the midst of the pandemic, Congress allocated $67 million to Georgia to assist with GDOL’s processing of temporary unemployment benefits created under the various relief efforts, including the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. However, Georgians continued to wait months to receive their claims, and extreme delays after their appeals were filed.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, citing repeated failures to follow Georgia and federal laws governing the payment and processing of unemployment benefits filed a class-action lawsuit against the GDOL back in June of 2021. Recently, SPLC amended its complaint, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, and a class certification for those waiting on unemployment appeals.
“The early days of the COVID pandemic broke the Georgia Department of Labor’s unemployment system, and they have refused to fix it. In this moment of unprecedented labor market volatility, the GDOL’s failures not only violate the letter of the law, but they utterly fail the fundamental purpose of the system that the GDOL runs. The absurd breakdown of the GDOL’s system not only fails to protect citizens in their moment of need but the GDOL forces citizens, especially Georgians of color, into a purgatory that can make it difficult for citizens to carry on with other employment,” said Miriam Gutman, senior attorney for the Economic Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“The Georgia DOL has failed to provide services to the citizens of Georgia, particularly those that are most vulnerable. In the State of Georgia, black workers were disproportionately denied unemployment benefits and upon appeal, those same workers were forced to wait for over a year for a hearing. Many people have found the application process challenging, with no staff to help them navigate this arduous process. Legislation is being proposed to provide assistance from unemployed workers in an effort to navigate our application process. We certainly hope that this legislation passes and people receive the help they deserve,” stated Sandra L. Williams, Executive Director, Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council.
Rep. William Boddie stated, “I completely support the need for the class-action lawsuit filed against the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) over the extreme delays experienced by countless unemployed Georgians. From the processing of unemployment insurance benefits claims to being able to schedule timely hearings on UI appeals, we owe unemployed Georgians better in their time of need.”
Boddie continued, “In the first quarter of 2021, the average UI appeals were taking an average of 256 days to be heard by GDOL; as opposed to the national acceptable timeline of 30 days or less for a UI appeal to be heard. GDOL can do better and must do better for Georgians who have lost their jobs to no fault of their own.”