SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – While the Georgian Ministry of Labor (GDOL) claims it processed millions of jobless claims in the last 12 months of the pandemic, the agency was also criticized by thousands of frustrated applicants who said they had waited. sometimes for months to get answers to their claims and benefits.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has now filed a lawsuit requesting data and information about how claims were handled and why there were delays, indicating that they are eligible through the Georgia Open Records Law Has information.

“We should be entitled to these records. In fact, some of the requests should be data and information that the Department of Labor is already keeping on a regular basis,” said Emily Early of the SPLC Economic Justice Project.

“I am sure the Georgia Open Records Law is clear and that we are entitled to public records that fall under the law, even as a nonprofit organization we are members of the public and have the right to know what is happening.”

Early says they want to know why it takes people a long time to get a response to their claims. In the case of those waiting to be appealed, the lawsuit states that the process often lasts for months and “without explanation”.

While GDOL says it processed up to five million applications in the past year, Early says legal action is looking for more specific details.

“We want to understand why it takes so long for people to get a response to their requests and why the rejection rate is so high. I believe Georgia ranks number two in terms of the rejection rate for jobless claims across the country. ” She said.

“We want to understand what is happening, and yes, the Department of Labor is seeing a huge surge in unemployment insurance claims due to the pandemic, and we understand that,” she said. “But it’s been a year and we want to know what protocols have been put in place to fix delays.”

GDOL said last week it is now in the process of implementing the new American Rescue Plan Act benefits program along with the administration of all other programs.

GDOL announced last week that Georgians “have received more than $ 19.6 billion (in state and federal benefits) since March 21, 2020, more than the combined 57 years prior to the pandemic”. GDOL has also told us in the past that not all processed claims will ultimately be approved, but they will need to review every claim that is made.

Early, according to Early, organizations they deal with continue to hear from some people who have never received benefits and are still trying, but continue to be frustrated because they can’t call or answer an email.

“I think the Labor Department’s sheer ineptitude was very alarming given the huge needs people have faced over the past year due to the pandemic,” Early said. “We decided to file a lawsuit to compel the ministry.” Complying with the Open Records Law in the face of extreme delays many people across Georgia have experienced. “

If GDOL believes the group does not have a legal right to the data, Early says SPLC was not notified, which is why they took legal action this week.