About 260,000 Georgians will be affected by the state’s plan to stop participating in federal programs that allow those who are jobless — including gig and contract workers, who are normally not eligible for state unemployment benefits — to collect federal unemployment benefits.
The Labor Department moves can hurt the state’s long-term economic health, argued Ray Khalfani, research associate at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, a liberal research and advocacy group.
At a time when many people can’t work because of childcare needs, the state should be finding ways to support, not undermine, working households, he said. “An equitable recovery can only reach all Georgia workers through investments that provide a more robust safety net,” he said.
The changes especially hurt lower-wage workers of color and women, Khalfani said.
Butler said the rules are also changing for businesses that lay off workers. Employers are typically required to pay part of the jobless claims for workers who are laid off, but that obligation was suspended during the pandemic. Starting June 27, that waiver ends.
The Department of Labor has processed nearly 4.9 million initial claims for jobless benefits since the pandemic began.
Last week, there were 22,240 claims, down slightly from the previous week. Since autumn, they have been hovering between 20,000 and 30,000. Butler says 80% of the claims now are coming from people who have been out of work a year and are required to file again for benefits, and most of the rest are from people who have been fired or quit.
Average weekly unemployment claims in Georgia
Weekly unemployment claims in Georgia
Highest, pre-pandemic: 41,522 (Jan. 10, 2009)
Highest, during pandemic: 390,132 (April 4, 2020)
Last week 22,240
Sources: U.S. Employment and Training Administration, Georgia Department of Labor