‘I’m at a breaking point’: Thousands waiting for approved unemployment benefits in GA

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – According to new data from the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), there are thousands of people in the state who have been approved to receive unemployment benefits, but are still waiting for payment.

“Where do we turn to next? Where do we go next? We’re really at a breaking point, I’m really at a breaking point,” said Akilal Harris who has not had a paycheck since May when she first filed for unemployment.

Harris says a heart condition is preventing her from safety returning to work as a customer sales representative and from continuing to work on her small business, which requires her to enter people’s homes.

“I work very hard to get the little I have. And to think that I’m going to lose all of that, just because I can’t go to work, because it’s going to risk me living or dying…it shouldn’t be,” said Harris.

Harris says the GDOL approved her unemployment claim in late July. But she has not received a payment. She is not alone.

According to GDOL, of 65 thousand claims that have not been paid, 20 thousand are ineligible after further review.

38 thousand claims are delayed because of missing information from claimants, including “the reason for employment separation or the receipt of other financial payments.”

That means around 7 thousand valid claims in the state have not been paid.

“The vast majority have been legal, germane and are just caught up in a infrastructure process of backlog,” said Rep. Craig Gordon of the holdup.

Gordon says he has suggested to Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Governor Brian Kemp that they should utilize the National Guard to assist with clerical work at GDOL.

He also suggests GDOL hire people who have permanently lost their jobs to assist with the extra work. In the past, Butler has asserted that training people to perform those duties takes several months. It’s a challenge for his department, which has undergone budget cuts throughout the last decade.

“Even if they weren’t being trained to use the computer system, but answering phones, taking messages…that would at least help out in some capacity,” said Gordon.

Commissioner Butler released the following statement in response to Gordon’s suggestions:

“We recently shared with the Democratic Caucus that we have been hiring additional staff to assist with clerical duties through temporary contracts since April. Many neighboring states have attempted to hire additional temporary staff to assist in these critical areas leading to a slowdown in determinations and achieving barely half the success that we’ve had here in Georgia in releasing payments.”

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler

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