No details on how state would handle Trump’s order on jobless benefits

Georgians who say they've been denied unemployment benefits gather at a Department of Labor office in Gwinnett County last week. WSB-TV
Georgians who say they've been denied unemployment benefits gather at a Department of Labor office in Gwinnett County last week. WSB-TV

Credit: WSB-TV

Credit: WSB-TV

An executive order signed by President Donald Trump would extend enhanced benefits payments for the unemployed, if states provide a portion of the funds. But Georgia officials were tight-lipped Monday about how that will play out here.

Last month, as Congress continued to debate a new pandemic aid package, the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits that had been going to those who have lost jobs during the pandemic was allowed to expire. Trump’s order would give an extra $400 a week, but require a state to provide $100 of that.

On Sunday, Trump told reporters that he’d let states apply to have the federal government provide all of the payments.

With the order’s specifics in doubt, the Georgia Department of Labor wasn’t ready to tell jobless Georgians what to expect. A statement from Labor Department Commissioner Mark Butler’s office said, “At this time, the GDOL is still awaiting clarification on the funding mechanism for this new benefit.”

Asked about the president’s executive orders at a press conference Monday morning, Gov. Brian Kemp praised the action and implied that there would be a coordinated state response. “Our team is in talking to Commissioner Butler right now,” he said.

However, he gave no hint as to whether Georgia would – or could – pony up the money. He also did not say if the state would, under Trump’s Sunday modification, request that the federal government pick up the tab.

Trump’s order drew criticism from those who say it was beyond the president’s authority to issue such an order.

Some Georgia officials questioned whether the state, already in the midst of a budget crunch, had the money to make it work.

Butler, whose agency administers both the federal payments and state jobless benefits, had previously criticized Congress for putting the burden on the states to create the systems that will pay the enhanced jobless benefits.