Common mistakes the Ga. Department of Labor sees in unemployment claims
By Amanda Aguilar | July 15, 2020 at 6:47 PM EDT - Updated July 15 at 7:31 PM
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The latest report from the Georgia Department of Labor shows unemployment claims going down, while the state is paying more benefits than before.
A report from WalletHub shows it’s happening at a slow rate, saying Georgia is the second slowest state to pay out claims. Georgia’s Department of Labor commissioner said the report, showing Georgia is slow in terms of unemployment claim recovery, is simply not true.
According to the Department of Labor, about 2.9 million claims have been filed since the pandemic began in March. Of those claims, only 40-percent are considered valid, according to the commissioner.
He says 91-percent of those valid claims have already received benefits.
While WTOC has heard from some Georgians, who say they’ve been waiting months for payments, the commissioner said there are a few reasons for the hold up.
First, he said, just because a claim is valid, doesn’t mean it will get paid out - sometimes due to conflicting statements between an employer and employee.
Lastly, the DOL is seeing a high number of fraudulent claims, which takes away manpower from processing and paying out real claims.
“You actually see a higher attempted fraud during those periods, because fraudsters look at chaos and say, ‘here’s opportunity.’ We know for a fact, right now, we’re seeing, especially here in the last few weeks, a lot more attempted fraud here in Georgia,” Commissioner Mark Butler said.
While Georgia Department of Labor reports a drop in unemployment claims, some Georgians are still waiting on their first payment.
Sabrina Davis and her two daughters spent their Wednesday outside Savannah’s Department of Labor office with chairs, a cooler and food - waiting for answers.
“They told me I was going to get money in 24-48 hours and I still have not seen any benefits,” Davis said. “105 days later.”
Butler was asked about Davis’s situation, who said he spoke with her shortly after WTOC talked to her, about why her claim was denied, saying it was a complex claim with “serious issues.”
“From what I can tell, she has exercised her right to appeal that decision and she’ll be able to present additional information, just like you would in any type of court case,” Butler said.
The commissioner said some people may be waiting on a payment, for the same reason as Davis, or an issue that could easily be fixed, like reaching out to the employer.
This was the case for Stephanie Boaz, who has been waiting for unemployment benefits since March, after her employer filed her claim.
“Then I got an approval letter saying that I’ve been approved for the full amount but every time I would go onto the website, it’d say ‘Still Pending,’” Boaz said.
Butler said the DOL is seeing a common trend, where employers stop filing for employees for various reasons and they’re not converting employees over to individual claims.
“If you have an employer who has decided to never bring you back, you’re getting permanently laid off, ask them first if they would convert you. It’s a very easy process,” the commissioner said.
If you were asked to come back to work and you refuse, Butler said you’ll have to start over and file an individual claim to keep receiving benefits.
As for Boaz, DOL looked at her claim and fixed it following WTOC’s interview with her, and she said she’ll be getting three-weeks of unemployment.
Butler admits it is taking a long time to get back to people. He said there’s a lack of manpower in the offices, they are still dealing with a high number of claims; many that are fraudulent. He said the DOL is working on and testing tools every day that could help make this process quicker and more efficient.
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