Frustrations Mount For Georgians Experiencing Unemployment Benefit Delays

Lucretia Baggett’s husband was laid off from his welding job in May.

“He’s not a computer guy,” said Baggett. So she set out to help him file for unemployment. They had trouble logging on at first, but once they were in, they ran into more problems.

“It says give 48 hours for the claim to be processed, and that was a month ago,” said Baggett.

She says they’re in a position to absorb some time without work – through credit card and savings — but others she’s met through an online group are not as fortunate.

“This is killing people’s ability to live their lives. So please, please, please somebody do something,” said Baggett.

The Baggetts’ frustration is shared by other unemployed residents in the state, some of whom gathered in front of the Department of Labor’s career center in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday morning.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler argues the state is among the leaders in the country in paying unemployment claims.

But some out-of-work Georgians say their complaints are being met with unanswered phone calls and locked doors.

The Department of Labor hasn’t restarted in-person services, which can be problematic for those without internet.

“Gov. Kemp likes to tell everyone that, ‘We’re open for business here,’ but your Department of Labor is not open,” exclaimed Democratic state Sen. Nikki Merritt of Grayson.

Adding to their worries, in just a few weeks, unemployed Georgians will be cut off from additional federal unemployment benefits. Butler and Gov. Brian Kemp say it’s a move to get Georgians back to work.

Producer and writer Sharon Corpening calls it insulting.

“Are you kidding me? We don’t want to work? Do you know how many people, including myself, that have resumes going out – hundreds, sometimes hundreds a week?” she said.

She and others say they won’t be pressured into taking jobs that don’t pay a living wage and don’t pay the bills.

James Williams, president of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council, says the state’s decision to forgo the extra $300 in federal unemployment benefits is misguided.

“They want you to go ahead and go back to work for a half, a third, a quarter of what you were making before with no benefits,” said Williams. “And so they pulled out of the federal unemployment benefit. Where’s that money going to go? It’s going to go to other states that are taking care of their working people.”

Concerns about a backlog of unemployment claims were bipartisan earlier this year during Georgia’s legislative session. Lawmakers even passed a bill that would create a chief labor officer position to help.

But Kemp vetoed that bill, citing separation of power issues.

“It’s more important than ever, dealing with the unemployment benefits not being timely paid and distributed to Georgians throughout the state,” said East Point Democratic Rep. William Boddie “It’s just time that Republicans speak out again about this issue.”