Georgia Department of Labor blames Congress for unemployment frustrations

WOODSTOCK, Ga. — The struggle to get people their pandemic unemployment relief has been a tough challenge for Georgia’s Department of Labor and for the people waiting for their benefits.

New unemployment delays are upsetting people who are looking for extended pandemic unemployment relief.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

The state tells Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Nicole Carr, it has everything to do with the extensions Congress just passed. Labor Commissioner Mark Butler told Carr they don’t know what to expect or have in place for those waiting until Congress passes the latest bill.

Butler said the recently approved extended pandemic unemployment assistance funds are delayed while the state reprograms their system to filter through beneficiaries, which is a new federal requirement.

“These are not things that existed before that bill passed. And they don’t call us ahead of time to say, ‘What would it take to do this or do that? What would it take to stand this up?’” Butler said.

Butler explained that the new directives have complicated their jobs, adding tasks like backdating and verifying extension eligibility periods to verifying claims.

“For example, anyone who is on the PUA, like the self-employed, they want us to go back and re-verify every one of those individuals who’s requesting payments. Verify their identity. That’s about 350,000 people. And that’s not easy to do,” Butler said.

Carr wanted to know if the state had the infrastructure needed to do all of this in place.

“That’s a very good question. The problem is a lot of this stuff, you don’t have the infrastructure in place because you don’t know what’s going to be in the bill or what they’re gonna ask you to do until after it passes,” Butler said.

As of Wednesday, Butler says the state has paid out $100 million more in benefits than all of last week, steadily trying to work through claims.

TRENDING STORIES:

Shelby Behret is a Woodstock-based travel agent whose business can’t “boom” in the pandemic. Behret is on unemployment for the first time.

“These lifelines are desperately needed and it’s through no fault of our own,” Behret said.

Behret is worried and said the answers they’re getting are just making her and others more upset.

“Here we go again. There’s always an excuse. There’s no accountability for the Department of Labor to send citizens money from a system they paid into,” Behret said.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]

The Department of Labor says they’ve set up a special section on their website for people who are receiving 1099 forms for unemployment funds they never received. Click here to visit the section.

They say if that’s happened to you, your identity may have been stolen and you need to report it immediately.