State repays fed loan for jobless benefits

Georgia has repaid the nearly $1 billion federal loan taken during the worst of the recession layoffs to pay for unemployment benefits.

The state’s final payment of $62.5 million went to the U.S. Department of Labor last week, state Labor Department announced this morning.

The repayment – coming well ahead of schedule – comes after several years of modest job growth, some controversial benefit cuts and a “tightening up” on overpayments.

Roughly 330,000 Georgians are still unemployed. Five years ago, there were 449,000 unemployed. By late that year, the unemployment rate had reached 10.4 percent and the state’s trust fund for paying benefits had been depleted.

Georgia was one of more than 30 states that borrowed from the federal government to pay state benefits.

In 2012, the state legislature cut the maximum period that an unemployed person can receive benefits from 26 weeks to no more than 20 weeks, using a sliding scale that could mean as few as 14 weeks.