SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A tool to help address unemployment claims in the Peach State is now more than two weeks old.
An initial release from the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) said the pilot program would last two weeks. But now, a spokesperson says it will continue for much longer.
GDOL launched an online appointment scheduler on Nov. 2, allowing claimants to pick a time to meet with a representative and ask any questions about their claim.
Each appointment offers a two-hour window for the claimant and representative to meet.
“We have been adding personnel to our staff to help with general responses and this addition will allow our experienced staff to focus on resolving claimant issues more efficiently,” said GDOL Commissioner Mark Butler.
GDOL Director of Communication Kersha Kartwright says newly-hired personnel is helping with eligibility reviews and more. Existing employees are working with the online scheduler because it requires experience and training.
Claimants say getting in touch with a representative has been one of the most difficult tasks of the unemployment process. The scheduler, they say, is a start.
“You get discouraged and you know it’s not worth calling,” said Chris, a Coastal Empire claimant who did not want to give his last name.
Officials ask claimants to be ready to discuss their claims during the allotted time frame. Representatives on that line cannot discuss eligibility or appeals.
Be warned, it may take additional time for a representative to get in touch with a claimant.
“We have been working very hard to make sure people are called during their time frame,” said Kartwright. “And if not, we are making sure we call them right after that time frame is over. We’re still learning the process too and it’s taking a little time, but we’re getting better and better at it.”
The appointment scheduler is available on the GDOL website and is highlighted on the homepage. Additional time slots will be added each Monday for the following week.
Kartwright says 1,500 appointments will be available each week and the department will expand “when it can.” Chris says they should, especially because there is only one hour to sign up for an appointment.
“If it fills up within that hour or even faster, then that’s a pretty clear sign that that’s not enough,” he said.
The labor department says Georgians have received more than $15 billion in unemployment insurance benefits since March of this year. Over 322,000 Georgians have received payments from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program developed as part of the CARES Act.
GDOL says next week, up to 70,000 of these PUA claimants will potentially exhaust benefits having received payments for the maximum 39 weeks.
Visit here for reemployment assistance resources and information on filing an unemployment claim.