Georgia state lawmakers call for better system to address unemployment claims

Georgia state lawmakers call for better system to address unemployment claims
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Georgia state representatives are calling for action as many unemployed residents have gone for weeks or months without jobless benefits, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Saturday. 

Democratic state lawmakers Donna McLeod, Jasmine Clark, and Rebecca Mitchell stood outside a local Department of Labor office on Thursday as part of a protest organized by the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council to demand a better system for addressing unemployment claims. 

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The three lawmakers were joined by Amanda Shorts, a former civil engineer who lost her job last March due to the pandemic. Shorts told the Journal-Constitution that she has been relying on unemployment benefits for aid, adding that it took her five weeks to get those benefits. 

Shorts told the Journal-Constitution the group stood outside the office for an hour, then observed people arrive in search of answers for unpaid claims only to find a sign with a phone number that leads to a voicemail.

McLeod told the Journal that she has seen her constituents move back in with their parents due to this problem, calling it a “dereliction of duty” to protest for those who are struggling. 

“A year later, there are people that have never seen a penny,” McLeod told the Journal. “As a human being — to know somebody won’t be able to eat, somebody might not have a roof over their head — you cannot help but be completely in pain for them.”

This comes as many Georgians have gone weeks and months without unemployment benefits since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the closure of local Department of Labor offices. Those residents have also been unable to get their questions answered by the department, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. 

Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempI voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Abrams targets Black churchgoers during campaign stops for McAuliffe in Virginia Arbery murder trial set to begin this week MORE (R) announced in May that federal unemployment benefits will end on Saturday, June 26. 

In an email, the commissioner for the Labor department Mark Butler told the Journal-Constitution that career centers, like the one the lawmakers protested in front of, have been in place to help those who are unemployed, saying “these workers have helped with reemployment and unemployment insurance services since the pandemic started.” 

“We have had an issue with legislators insisting that people go to career centers to have their appeals hearings, which is incorrect information,” Butler told the newspaper. “Those types of hearings have been done over the phone for 8 years.”

Shorts, who experienced homelessness years prior to the pandemic, said that if her husband wasn’t working her family would’ve faced homelessness again. 

“It’s really scary,” Short said. 

In an email, Georgia's DOL told The Hill that Short did receive her unemployment benefits, saying her employer filed it for her and it ended up as a "fraud claim" in their system. 

"Her employer converted her claim in June 2020 and she continued to receive payments. When she reapplied for her second year of unemployment, it was fully processed and paid out in 10 days and she has continued to receive her payments."