Everything Georgians need to know about the stimulus payments, unemployment and more

Consumer adviser Clark Howard breaks down what you should know about money being handed out.

The stimulus comes at a time where unemployment rates reached historic levels. On Thursday, the government said more than 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week. That’s the most in American history.

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Georgia’s unemployment figures were released by the Georgia Department of Labor Thursday:

“For the week of March 15 through March 21, claims processed in Georgia increased to 12,140 initial claims, up 6,695 from the previous week’s 5,445 claims. The GDOL anticipates substantially higher claims in the coming weeks already seeing a higher number of claims than were filed during the 2008-2009 recession. In the first week of March, the GDOL saw 59,000 users on the website and yesterday reported 110,000 in one day.”

We’ve put together everything you need to know about the stimulus bill, unemployment and more:

The Stimulus Bill

How much money will people be getting from the stimulus bill?

The bill gives a one-time direct payments to Americans -- $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.

The amount of the payments will be based on income reported in 2018 taxes -- or your 2019 taxes if you have already filed them. The amount of the payment will decline gradually for individuals who made more than $75,000 or married couples who filed jointly and made $150,000.

Payments will phase out at a rate of $5 per every additional $100 in income over $75,000 in adjusted gross income for singles, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for married couples filing jointly.

The checks will be directly deposited into bank accounts if you included direct deposit information on your tax form. If you did not, your check will be mailed to you.

When will I get the money?

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said you’ll have your money within three weeks.

Is there just one payment?

Right now, there is only one payment planned. But future bills could offer additional payments, the White House said Wednesday.

Do you have to apply to receive a payment?

No. If the Internal Revenue Service already has your bank account information, it would transfer the money to you via direct deposit based on the recent income-tax figures it already has, according to the New York Times.

To get the money to people who don’t usually file tax returns, the IRS may have to request that information from the Social Security Administration or Veterans Affairs. In 2008, those people were required to file a return anyway in order to get their rebate, according to CNN.

Unemployment in Georgia

How does the stimulus bill impact unemployment in Georgia?

Lawmakers agreed to a significant expansion of unemployment benefits that would expand unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and include a four-month enhancement of benefits -- an additional $600 per week - on top of what state unemployment programs pay, according to ABC News.

In total, unemployed workers are eligible to receive up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits.

The program was expanded to include freelancers, furloughed employees and gig workers, such as Uber drivers.

The massive boost in unemployment insurance is expected to cost $250 billion.

“If you are unemployed, there is extra money available like we’ve never seen before beyond what states would normally pay for unemployment, and this money goes on for four full months paid weekly,” Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard said.

If you must, you can even tap into your 401(k) up to $100,000 without penalty. Howard said to use that as a last resort.

Are you eligible for unemployment in Georgia?

In Georgia, the Department of Labor handles unemployment benefits and determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Applicants must meet the following three eligibility requirements in order to collect unemployment benefits in Georgia, according to NOLO.com:

• Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds.

• You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by Georgia law.

• You must be able and available to work, and you must be actively seeking employment.

How do you file unemployment claim in Georgia?

The Department of Labor has temporarily suspended in-person requirements for services provided by the department because of the coronavirus crisis. You can file your claim online here.

In order to file a claim, you will need your Social Security number, your driver’s license if you have one, your bank’s routing number and account number and your work information history for the last 18 months.

Georgia’s unemployment director, Denise Beckwith, walked Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston through how to apply for unemployment benefits online

“There’s a big banner that says, 'New information for filing for unemployment.' They’ll go down our homepage to an area to a link called Online Services,” Beckwith said. “They’ll go down to the link that says Apply for Unemployment Benefits.”

Beckwith said the Department of Labor will send you two emails. The second is a confirmation, and you will begin to receive benefits. She told Huddleston if you have problems, this is what to do:

“There’s a link at the top of our page that says Contact Us. Click on that, Career Center and that will give you a list of the career centers around the state,” Beckwith said.

Beckwith said the website called Georgia Employment has information about thousands of jobs around the state.

“UPS is hiring for delivery, Amazon or for delivery drivers, Publix, Kroger, just several different companies that have reached out looking for workers during this time," Beckwith said.

She told Huddleston that the state has extended how long you can receive unemployment benefits from 14 weeks to 26 weeks.

Channel 2's Dave Huddleston spoke with the state's director of unemployment to talk about the historic levels in Georgia and what it means.

Student Loans

Does the stimulus bill help ease student loans?

Student loan borrowers are allowed to put off paying their federal student loan payments without penalty until September 30.

The bill provision extends the plan already put in place by the Education Department amid the coronavirus crisis, which allows borrowers to defer their payments without interest for at least 60 days. But the deferred-payment benefit currently isn’t automatic and requires borrowers to contact their loan servicers to ask for help.

The Senate bill automatically suspends those payments without interest for the next six months. It also suspends the collection on defaulted debts -- including wage and tax refund garnishment.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Wednesday that collections will be stopped for at least 60 days.

Small Business Loans

Can I get a loan to keep my business afloat?

The bill includes loans for small businesses needing to make payroll until they can reopen.

Information from the New York Times, ABC News, CNN and NOLO.com was used in this report.

This more than quadruples the previous record set in 1982.