The Georgia Department of Labor is launching a program to convert employer-filed partial unemployment claims to employee-filed claims without a gap in payments.
When workers were laid off for COVID-19-related reasons, employers were required to file “partial unemployment” claims on behalf of their employees. By filing these claims, employers could ensure their laid-off employees received benefits quickly, and employers would not be held liable for payments made through the partial claims.
The Claims Conversion Program will be launched next week.
For those whose layoffs have become permanent, the program eliminates the need for their former employees to continue filing claims weekly.
“This program will allow employees who have been permanently laid off the opportunity to instantly convert their claim to an individual one, ensuring continued benefits without having to refile their claim,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler in a press release.
All GDOL career center offices are closed to the public, but online services are available. Offices will be opened as soon as social distancing can be effectively implemented, according to the press release.
According to the release, as businesses reopen, many employers have had questions on the process for transitioning employees from unemployment back to employment. The GDOL will be rolling out a series of webinars next week expanding options for getting employees back to work.
Traditionally, when an employer laid off an employee, the employee had to file an individual claim, a process that can take more than 30 days. With the new program, the conversion will be made immediately without the employee having to refile the claim, according to GDOL.
“The Claims Conversion Program will outline the steps for employees working reduced hours, permanent layoffs, employee refusals to return to work, severance packages and other employment packages,” Butler said. “We are working with employers to help them meet their business needs. In the meantime, we are continuing to encourage employers to file weekly on behalf of their employees until we can get the system implemented.”
Since mid-March, GDOL has processed 1.8 million regular initial unemployment claims. Of those, 812,281 were valid with enough earned wages to receive benefits, according to the release. As of this week, 85 percent of claimants have received their first payment.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is available to Georgians who do not qualify for traditional unemployment because they are self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, employees of churches or nonprofits, or because they do not have an adequate work history. As of last week, 108,097 PUA applications, 81 percent, had been processed and are eligible for payment.
However, almost 50 percent of applicants have filed claims but not requested payment. “In order to receive benefits, applicants must request payment for each eligible week,” Butler said.
For the PUA program, applicants had to be deemed ineligible for state benefits. Applicants are continuing to be identified as potential PUA recipients and directed to apply for federal benefits.
Last week, GDOL processed 242,722 claims, 72 percent of which were employer-filed, and issued over $176 million in regular weekly benefits. The department has also issued over $1.5 billion in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program benefits. FPUC provides an additional $600 weekly payment to any individual eligible for an unemployment program.
Over the past two months, the sectors with the most claims were Accommodation and Food Service, 493,600, Health Care and Social Assistance, 221,519, Retail Trade, 211,032, Administrative and Support Services, 147,834, and Manufacturing, 139,566.
Information on unemployment claims and resources are available at dol.georgia.gov .