ATLANTA - Nearly 243,000 Georgians filed initial unemployment claims last week, a slight increase over the 228,352 filed the previous week, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.
That brings to more than 1.8 million the number of initial claims submitted to the agency since the middle of March, when the coronavirus pandemic began prompting Georgia businesses to shut down and lay off workers.
With some of those laid off employees now losing their jobs permanently, the labor department has developed a program that will allow employer-filed partial unemployment claims to be converted to individual claims. The Claims Conversion Program will begin next week.
“This program will allow employees who are permanently laid off the opportunity to instantly convert their claim to an individual one ensuring continued benefits without having to refile their claim,” Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler said.
The new program will replace the past system that forced permanently laid off employees to file an individual unemployment claim, a process now taking more than 30 days.
The labor department has issued more than $2.4 billion in combined state and federal unemployment benefits during the last eight weeks. Of the 1,840,365 initial claims filed, 812,281 qualified to receive benefits and 575,000 Georgians received their first payment.
“That is more recipients than the past four years combined,” Butler said.
During the past eight weeks, the most initial unemployment claims – 493,600 - have come from the accommodation and food services sector. The health care and social assistance category is a distant second, with 221,519 claims, followed by retail trade with 211,032 claims.
By Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service