Despite improved unemployment numbers Georgians are still waiting on benefits

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Despite improved unemployment numbers many Georgians are still waiting on their benefits.

“I probably called 300-400 times just to get busy signals and retry,” Matthew Crise said who is still waiting for unemployment benefits.

Crise said it’s been nearly impossible to get ahold of anybody at the Georgia Department of Labor.

“I actually called the governor’s office yesterday and didn’t get anything either,” Crise said.

Crise filed for unemployment in May after he was laid off from his job but he still hasn’t received any money. News 3 learned from the GDOL that each applicant may have underlying problems that need to be worked out before receiving any money.

“I would like to get some of that unemployment I’m entitled to and that would definitely make things easier on my family,” Crise said.

The Georgia Department of Labor says over $6.2 billion in benefits have been paid out so far and 2.7 million claims have been processed in 14 weeks. News 3 is still hearing from more people in Crise’s shoes, though. The Georgia Department of Labor announced the preliminary unemployment rate for the month of May decreased 2.9 percent from the previous month.

Officials say the number of employed was up 144,877 over April, but down 480,592 compared to this time last year.

“I tried pretty much every single phone number they had on their website and they’re all incredibly difficult to reach,” Chase Nolin said.

Nolin was let go from his event job at Victory North but luckily had money set aside.

“I had gotten a student refund so I was able to use some of that money to pay rent and to get by with food,” Nolin said.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler says people are getting impatient and resubmitting claims that’s creating a backlog.

“You only need one, just one claim. If you file more than once and you’re wondering why you haven’t got a payment yet that is why,” Butler said.

Georgia’s labor force number of 4,900,139 reported for May was up 5,743 over April, but down 186,179 when compared to May 2019.

“Something needs to be done whether opening up the offices or temporarily bringing somebody in but the communications just been atrocious,” Crise said.

While Crise doesn’t know when he’ll get his benefits because of legal problems that need to be smoothed out, Nolin could receive his within the next five days. Both men have received calls from the Georgia Department of Labor after speaking with News 3.

“I was almost brought to tears when I finally got that unemployment call. It’s been a long 14 weeks,” Nolin said.

Commissioner Butler said the backlog could also be from the department verifying identities. He said fraudulent claims have been high since the pandemic started. As far as the long wait times on the phone Butler says the Department of Labor staff is smaller than normal. They’re currently looking to add more people to the team.

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