SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Georgia Department of Labor says it is creating a system to be able to pay the extra $300 a week unemployment benefit recently approved by President Donald Trump.
However, because of a different funding source (the money is coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the rules of that agency, those payments may not go out to Georgians for three to four weeks.
The new payments are part of the Lost Wages Assistance program.
“It’s invariably a situation where they make changes or they’re doing it a little bit differently or they’re using a different fund source or they do different rules,” said Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler. “And I don’t think a lot of consideration goes into this kind of thing when they throw this stuff at us, especially when you consider for the past ten years they have been under-funding Departments of Labor around the nation.”
Nationwide, over 1,000,000 people filed initial unemployment claims last week. In Georgia, claims are going down (56,738 claims last week which is 1,331 less than the week before) but still billions have been paid out in benefits. GDOL says since March 21, $12.7 billion has been paid out to eligible claimants.
The state of South Carolina also says claims are down. The Department of Employment Workforce says weekly comparisons are often used in terms of showing a decline or an uptick, but that month to month comparisons are more likely to dictate a trend.
Jamie Huber from the Department of Employment Workforce told News 3: “We thought by looking month to month it would give a better understanding, so if you look at from July to August period, it appears we’re under 4,000 claims in regards to a reduction so it does appear that we are trending in the right direction and the new claims coming into the system have been reduced tremendously.”
Huber also said South Carolina has applied for the Lost Wages Assistance Program.
“Once we receive approval, we’ll continue to work quickly to configure our systems to process the changes in this program,” said Huber. “We’re not certain how long that will take.”
Both South Carolina and Georgia officials pointed out that individuals don’t need to call or apply separately for the new benefit which is designed to provide relief after the special $600 weekly benefit ran out recently. Both states say the $300 per week payments (when available) will be added to the payments of all those eligible and currently receiving state or federal unemployment benefits.
An important note: benefits in the new program so far are for the weeks ending Aug. 1, Aug. 8, and Aug. 15. Officials say after that, states must reapply for additional funding.
Georgia officials also told reporters that GDOL is implementing some new methods to combat an “overwhelming increase in fraud.” They said the department is working with a nationally recognized program ID.me to provide a “complete identity platform for online identity verification.” They said apparent stolen data is being used to open fraudulent claims.
“Fraud is something this agency takes very seriously, and we have formed a task force with several state and federal agencies to work together to tackle individual and organized crime,” said Butler.
“The most common situation we are seeing right now is when a claimant begins to receive funds for a few weeks and then benefits stop when another claim is filed using their social security number,” said Butler. “We realize this is very frustrating, but we must ensure we are issuing payments to the correct person to protect both the claimant and the integrity of the entire program.”
To help identify potential fraud, the GDOL encourages individuals to report fraud and abuse on the agency’s homepage under Online Services.