The reality is different, said Gutman. “It’s gotten worse.”
Among the plaintiffs is Sulatha Blount (61) from Macon, a self-employed housekeeper who stated that she qualified as a gig worker for the services of the federal pandemic. Her application in March was approved, but payments didn’t go through.
“I went to Church members for help,” she said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I went to my older father. I was kicked out of my medical clinic because I didn’t have enough money. “
Only the government’s moratorium on evictions kept them off the street, she said. “I’ve always been a loyal worker. It doesn’t have to be like that. “
Many applicants have complained from the start that it was next to impossible to contact DOL staff with questions or concerns.
Harriett Rogers, 60, of Mableton, another plaintiff, lost her job as a patient account agent and received benefits until they expired in August. She was told she could file a new motion but wouldn’t get a hearing on the motion until March – and she couldn’t speak to a staff member about her situation.
“I sat on the verge of the eviction in my apartment and tried to get information about pantries,” she said in an interview. “There was just no one to reach.”
Unemployment benefits in normal times are only intended to provide a temporary cushion. But even after the economy recovered, Georgia job seekers outnumbered the vacancies dramatically.
When the pandemic relief programs expired, Congress passed a number of new benefits last month until a vaccine distribution could give a full boost.
But people who don’t get the benefits don’t have the pillow.
After losing her job that spring, accountant Lisa English, another plaintiff, said she couldn’t afford her rent and moved to a smaller apartment in Rockdale where she could split the expenses.
She was briefly called back to work in the fall and then let go.
“I haven’t seen a penny of either claim,” she said in an interview. “At 36, it’s hard to rely on your boyfriend and parents to pay your bills.”
Although the pandemic caused unprecedented problems – and widespread complaints about the DOL – the legal odds against this type of effort are great, said Atlanta attorney Page Pate, a senior litigator at Pate, Johnson & Church and a frequent legal commentator This is not associated with the suit.
“Supreme court judges are almost always reluctant to tell a government agency how to do their job,” he said. “It’s extraordinarily unusual.”
Even if plaintiffs can demonstrate that an agency is inefficient, it is usually not enough to get a judge to intervene, Pate said. “I think this complaint was made because the plaintiffs had no choice but to draw public attention to the matter.”