Coronavirus, Local

What To Know About Filing For Unemployment In Georgia And The CARES Act

More than 861,000 unemployment claims have been processed in Georgia since March 14, according to GDOL's April 16 press release.
More than 861,000 unemployment claims have been processed in Georgia since March 14, according to GDOL's April 16 press release.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Last updated on May 1 at 1:26 p.m.

The coronavirus relief package was approved March 27, and Georgians are now starting to receive its benefits.

With the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, unemployment payment amounts will increase, more workers will qualify, and benefits will be available for a longer amount of time.

A few weeks ago, the Georgia Department of Labor began sending out the additional $600 weekly payments from the CARES Act, according to an April 19 update. The department has been told that they will be able to “backdate any payments for eligible weeks beginning March 29.”

Those who previously couldn’t apply for unemployment benefits have new guidance from GDOL on how they can begin to start receiving benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Since late March, GDOL has been updating its COVID-19 information page with instructions about unemployment benefits. The department has been using instructions provided by the U.S. Department of Labor for “implementation procedures.”

Here’s what to know about Georgia’s unemployment benefits process — from filing to the amount of payment — and what to expect with the rollout of CARES.

Who Qualifies?

Until the CARES Act comes into effect in Georgia, just those who have been receiving W-2s from their employer qualify for unemployment benefits.

Those who are self-employed will be able to file for unemployment benefits once they approved by GDOL and the Georgia Department of Revenue.

How To Apply?

You can file for unemployment benefits on the Georgia DOL’s website. Both those who receive W2s and who are self-employed, are being told to file a regular state unemployment claim application.

Within 21 days, a “written determination of eligibility” will be sent those who could qualify for PUA, or a program that gives unemployment benefits to gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, non-profit employees, church employees and those who wouldn’t normally qualify for benefits.

Starting on Wednesday, April 22, PUA applications will be emailed to those who may qualify, according to the GDOL website.

“Once development of the new federal PUA program is completed, these individuals will be identified and will receive notification by email with a link to the application or mail containing information regarding the PUA application process,” as written on GDOL’s website.

For those who have already filed a claim, GDOL says they do not have to refile their claim, as stated on the department’s website. 

More about the processes for receiving PUA is online.

How Much Money Can You Receive?

With the CARES Act, an additional $600 from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation would be added on top of Georgia’s existing unemployment benefits package, which ranges from $55 to $365 weekly respectively, according to Kersha Cartwright, director of communications at the Georgia Department of Labor. 

So, the most someone could receive weekly in Georgia is $965 with the federal and state packages combined.

Georgia DOL assesses if someone qualifies to receive unemployment benefits based on if they “earned enough wages during the base period,” according to the department’s website

Then an equation is used to determine how much unemployment money people can receive per week.

The regular weekly benefit amount is based on the total wages in the two highest quarters divided by 42. And the alternative calculation is the total wages in the highest quarter divided by 21. 

Filers can also earn up to $300 per week before earnings begin to count against the benefits they receive.

But the unemployment benefits are subject to being taxed, with 10% being deducted for federal taxes and 6% for the state, according to an April 28 GDOL statement.

How Long Can You Get Benefits?

The Georgia DOL has extended the time for filers to receive unemployment benefits from 14 weeks to 26 weeks, based on a March 26 GDOL news release

Once CARES goes into effect in Georgia, the amount of time could increase 13 more weeks, according to Cartwright.

How Soon Will The Benefits Arrive?

If your employer filed the state unemployment claim for you, which is the preferred method, you should see at least the state portion of your unemployment benefit show up shortly. If you filed a claim yourself, it could take a little longer, according to officials.

Payments will arrive by a UI Way2Go Debit MasterCard that has been sent to you or by direct deposit.