ATLANTA — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been telling you about problems Georgians are having collecting unemployment payments.
Now, Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray has found that even as the state touts historic low unemployment levels, Georgians tell us they are still having trouble getting through for help at the Department of Labor.
Lori Redd, of Fairburn, has worked for more than 30 years as a private nurse. Last June was the first time she has ever been unemployed. But she has not been able to collect a dime of unemployment benefits so far.
“I was approved for unemployment and five months later no payment,” Redd said. “You’re looking at your bank account and your savings is just going down after 5 months of nothing going in but everything going out and its very stressful.
It’s a story Lori Silverman, who heads up Team Clark in Clark Howard’s Consumer Action Center, has heard more times than she can count.
“Where I find there is no excuse is the unavailability,” Silverman said.
She told Gray that of all the consumer issues they deal with, problems since the pandemic with getting through to the Department of Labor have been the most difficult to handle – ever.
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“When it came to unemployment, it was hitting your head at a brick wall,” Silverman said.
“The system locked me out one day and told me I needed to change the PIN,” Redd said.
The online system told Redd she needed an employee at the Department of Labor to fix the PIN, but Redd said getting ahold of someone was nearly impossible.
“I called every day and couldn’t get through. I even got desperate and went down to the unemployment office on Courtland Street. I knew it was closed, but the security guy was there and gave me a phone number. It went to the fax machine,” Redd said.
Silverman said most of the problems that hold up consumers’ unemployment tend to be simple things like bad PINs or an input error. But when you can’t get someone to fix it, those small problems lead to big issues.
“I almost felt like it was the Wizard of Oz and you had a black curtain and there was nothing behind the black curtain,” Silverman said.
“You start all over again every day. All day, every day,” Redd said.
After Gray contacted the Department of Labor, they fixed Redd’s account and paid her the five months of back benefits.
DOL said they are making appointments now at their career centers, but those are primarily for job seekers.
For unemployment benefits, they are asking everyone to call the specific unemployment customer service number: 404-232-3001 or 877-709-8185.
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