Federal unemployment benefits tied to pandemic end in Georgia this week

Federal unemployment benefits tied to pandemic end in Georgia this week

June 29, 2021 0 By Nyamekye Daniel

Unemployed Georgians will no longer receive pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits after this week.

The state will end three federal programs meant to supplement state unemployment benefits and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits to self-employed, gig workers and part-time workers.

“We saw the number of claims filed this week drop by almost 2,000 and anticipate this number to continue to fall as Georgians return to the workforce,” said Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) Commissioner Mark Butler said. “After 66 weeks of benefits during the pandemic and the release of over $22.5 billion, we look forward to refocusing our organization on reemployment and helping claimants find a career path that will provide the stability and support necessary to provide for their families.”

Citing a stagnant workforce, Butler and Gov. Brian Kemp announced their plans to end the programs in May. More than 149,000 unemployment workers are receiving the supplemental benefits scheduled to be eliminated after Saturday.

Georgia is ending the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) programs. FPUC provides an additional $300 weekly payment on top of state benefits. PEUC compensates workers after their state benefits run out. Unemployed workers with mixed earnings receive an additional $100 from the MEUC program. More than 149,000 Georgians get payments from the FPUC and PEUC programs. Another 74,000 Georgians are currently receiving PUA benefits.

GBPI Policy Analyst Ray Khalfani said the decision would affect more than 347,000 workers. He said prematurely cutting the federal benefits, which expire in September, would disproportionally harm low-paid workers and marginalized communities. He urged state leaders to reverse course.

“Georgia leaders should change direction and continue to provide additional support to workers while seeking opportunities to improve wages and address actual barriers to employment,” Khalfani said.

The state would also reinstate unemployment benefit requirements that were lifted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers applying for weekly unemployment payments must again actively seek work and register for employment services on the state’s reemployment website, EmployGeorgia. Employers will also lose additional support from the state.

“We will begin to charge employers again next week for unemployment benefits for those temporarily laid off or working fewer hours during the pandemic,” Butler said. “Businesses are open and employers are looking for workers to fill positions, not laying off members of their team.”

GDOL has processed more than 4.9 billion unemployment insurance claims from March 21, 2020, to date. Georgia maxed out its unemployment trust fund by fall 2020 and had to turn to the federal government for a loan. The state has paid more than $22.5 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits since late March 2020.

Khalfani said the pandemic exposed the shortcomings in states’ unemployment insurance programs. He said it revealed the need for state unemployment programs that support self-employed people, gig workers and part-time workers, and a more modernized unemployment system.

“Additional federal standards are also needed through congressional action, to establish baselines which prohibit [unemployment insurance] coverage barriers that disproportionately exclude women and workers of color, require a minimum national wage replacement rate and set a minimum of 26 weeks of regular [unemployment insurance] benefits,” Khalfani said.

This article was originally posted on Federal unemployment benefits tied to pandemic end in Georgia this week