ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia Scraps Federal Unemployment Programs That Allow Unemployed A $ 300 Weekly Boost, As Well As Programs That Pay Federal Funds To People Normally Ineligible For State Unemployment Or Have Been Unemployed For Longer Than The State Allowed, a move that could lower the incomes of 250,000 unemployed Georgians.
Governor Brian Kemp and Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced on Thursday the decision to end the programs on June 26th. Both elected Republicans had stated that work-hungry employers are demanding that the state do more to force people into the world of work.
“We’re not eliminating regular unemployment,” Kemp said in an appearance on Fox News. “We’re just taking away this federal grant that encourages people not to get into the world of work.”
Advocates of maintenance of benefits say it is too early to cut additional support for the unemployed and that the labor market remains badly disrupted, especially among women who have difficulty looking after children who are not five days in School still in childcare are week. About 32,000 Georgians filed new jobless claims in the week leading up to May 8, a number well above pre-pandemic levels.
Elizabeth Knight, a Savannah resident, said she was on leave in July and fired from her job as a disability employment counselor in November because the COVID-19 pandemic shut down. She has since drawn unemployment. Knight said one problem holding her back is that her son only goes to school in person three days a week.
“It’s pretty difficult to go back and try to find a new job when my current job is no longer available,” Knight said. “Now I have to look for another career.”
Georgia is the 13th and most populous state to announce that it is pulling out of federal programs that should last through September. All of the states that have withdrawn, including Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee, are Republican-run.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce and a number of other business groups on Monday called for the services to be suspended, saying companies were having trouble finding workers. The groups also called for a broader approach to increasing the workforce, saying employers would be short of manpower even if all the unemployed were hired.
“This is a topic I deal with every day with our little business people,” said Kemp. “It’s not fair to the people who are currently on the workforce. They are being killed right now, they have to work so many hours. You need help. ”
For those enrolled in the state unemployment program, benefits will drop to regular levels, with a weekly maximum of $ 365 and a minimum of $ 55.
Butler also said last week that he would reintroduce the normal requirement that people receiving benefits be looking for work “in the next few months” but did not say when.
Cody Hall, a spokesperson for Kemp, suggested in a text message that the federal government could continue to pay special pandemic unemployment benefits to individuals who are normally not eligible for unemployment, including the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, or salaried employees non-profit organizations. Hall did not immediately respond to requests to clarify how this might work.
The National Employment Law Project suggested in a letter to US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh on Tuesday that the federal government could force states to keep paying PUAs because Congress did not opt-out or could make the payments itself.
By May 8, around 121,000 people were receiving traditional unemployment benefits from the state program. Another 126,000 Georgians received pandemic unemployment assistance.
“If you pull this floor for people who need time to get back to work, it will hurt a lot of Georgians, hundreds of thousands,” said Ray Khalfani, a researcher with the liberal Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.
Despite these numbers, the Georgian workforce is only 44,000 below the record high of 5.2 million in March 2020. The number of employers is 4%, or 180,000, below the all-time high of 4.67 million.
Georgia had an unemployment rate of 4.5% in March, below the national average of 6%.
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