SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Shannon Starling says she joined the ranks of the unemployed over the summer and had heard about the complaints from some in Georgia about trying to get unemployment benefits.
“I thought maybe at first that there was some exaggeration to it but after going through it I now see the honest truth and how painful it truly is,” she told me.
Starling said she was terminated from her job in July and applied for unemployment. She was told to keep ‘certifying’ every week through the online portal, i.e. checking in to say she was looking for work. But no payments were forthcoming.
She did get a phone call from a Department of Labor representative about two months later and was told on September 15 that she definitely would qualify for benefits. But still, no check has come.
“And then I never hard anything else so I tried calling but nobody ever answered,” she told us. “I left
voicemails, I went to their Facebook page and sent messages there, I’d get the standard reply that someone would contact me. I emailed the governor, I emailed the Department of Labor commissioner but nobody would respond.”
When she email WSAV, we contacted the Department of Labor on Thursday evening. Starling says she got a call Friday morning indicating her benefits are on the way with 48 to 72 hours.
She’s happy about that but the frustration of the experience remains.
“It’s just disappointing that it took from July and here we are the end of October before I was able to get any answers,” she said.
Starling is now approved for $5,400 in back payments which she says will help pay bills but she has a lot of late fees at this point.
She’s also concerned about other people still trying to get a resolution.
“I think it’s extremely sad and that’s why I see these Facebook groups because people are coming together to share this information because they just don’t know who to contact. I’m talking 16,0000 to 17,000 people for Georgia specifically and some of them are talking about a class-action lawsuit.”
The Department of Labor says it has processed millions of claims successfully since the pandemic began. It encourages people to keep calling and emailing and says that employees are working as hard and fast as they can. People are urged to continue that process.
Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler has also told us in the past that just because someone files a claim doesn’t automatically mean they get unemployment. He says all claims have to be verified and then processed.
Starling hopes other people can get the help they need and says she found out what it was like to be treated like a number.
“It was hard being thought of as just a number but I’m a person too I’ve got bills, I’ve got a life,” said Starling. “It’s frustrating. I hope other people have someone that they can rely on for help because the Department of Labor is not moving things fast enough you know they need to do this for the residents of Georgia, you know this is what we need.”