SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh says up to 30 million people lost their jobs during the pandemic in a short amount of time, something that’s unprecedented.
“Right now, the work that we’re doing at the Department of Labor is about the ability of millions of Americans, quite honestly, to get back on their feet and put food on the table,” said Walsh during a phone conference with reporters this week.
Walsh fielded a number of questions about the slow processing of claims and complaints from many, especially in the state of Florida. But he acknowledged he heard of complaints in Georgia as well.
“I think what the pandemic did was expose the lack of investment in technology and infrastructure that would have better-allowed states to meet the needs of Americans during the pandemic,” he said.
Walsh told reporters he has been on the job just three weeks, but he is determined to hit the ground running to help unemployed, whether they’re filing now or they filed in the past and are still seeking some benefits.
He says the U.S. Labor Department is working with the state of Georgia.
“Georgia is increasing staff capacity to address the workload that’s there, so we’re going to continue to help Georgia provide the benefits to the residents in need,” said Walsh, “and we’re working to better understand the challenges of processing unemployment insurance benefits.”
Walsh says he is concerned about anyone who may still be owed some benefits.
“There’s no reason why a worker is sitting at home right now and has not received their back unemployment benefits, there’s no excuse for that, there’s no answer for that. Quite honestly, this wasn’t addressed on a national level by the past administration,” said Walsh.
He says President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan offers more funding for benefits but there will also be efforts to assist states in processing and approving claims.
“I can’t speak to the past, all I can do is speak to what we’re going to do moving forward here,” said Walsh. “I would just say to people that I apologize on behalf of the government that you did not get your unemployment benefits, and we’re going to do everything possible to rectify the situation.”