Residents express concern as new unemployment claims increase in the Chattahoochee Valley

Residents express concern as new unemployment claims increase in the Chattahoochee Valley

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - According to the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL), 4.2 percent of Georgians are now without a job and the numbers continue to rise since March.

“It took them seven weeks. It’s been seven weeks since I worked and I finally got a hold of them today. I’ve been calling them sevent weeks straight,” said Nicholas Darlington.

Darlington is one of several residents who’s frustrated with the process of filing for unemployment. Although Georgia is gradually reopening and some workers are returning to their jobs, many have yet to receive their unemployment benefits.

Columbus native Beatrice Smith said she and her husband usually have three streams of income, but due to COVID-19, they’re down to one.

“COVID-19 has affected my household as far as not getting my income coming in,” said Smith. "And there’s two of us in the household, but only one receiving income, and I think someone needs to do something about it. "

Smith said she’s been trying to contact GDOL for the status of her unemployment claim she filed on March 19. She said she hasn’t heard anything almost two months later.

According to GDOL , most of its employees are working either in the office or from home and are diligently working through messages and emails to return calls and answer questions. If you’re a person who has a discrepancy when filing, you won’t be able to go back and adjust information in your claim at this time. You will need to contact GDOL to have your information changed or updated.

With some people waiting weeks to get their income, some are fearful Georgia will run out of money for people in need.

“How many people in the city need it, everybody’s getting it. I mean, where’s the money coming from? So they’ll run out before any of this is figured out. I know that," said Darlington.

Leaders from GDOL said they’re following the trust fund balance that currently has $2 billion in it. They are also willing to apply for additional funds if necessary.

The Alabama Department Labor said it’s experiencing a high call volume and trying to get back to people within five days. It may take longer for some, and when asked of the possibility of unemployment funds running out due to the increase in people filing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the department said it’s not a concern now.

Below are frequently asked questions:

Georgia Department of Labor Questions

Will people who are allowed to return to work, but are choosing not to because of COVID-19 still be eligible for unemployment?

Potentially. We are encouraging employees to work with employers on return to work plans. If an employee decides to separate from the place of business, they have the right to file an individual claim. We will determine eligibility for benefits based on the facts presented in the case.

When will GDOL offices start in-person office hours again?

At this time, our career centers will remain closed to the public. Although we understand the urgency in speaking with a member of our staff, we are focused on making sure we can continue to process claims. In an effort to keep our staff safe and protected, we will continue to answer phones, return emails, and assist with claims while our doors remain closed to claimants. We will open our doors to the public as soon as it is safe to do so. Please check our website for links to FAQs, tutorials, and desk aids.

Is there a delay on some individuals receiving their unemployment benefits?

We have processed almost 1.5 million claims. Of the valid claims eligible for payment, 84 percent have been paid. We are working daily to resolve any issues that might keep individuals from being paid. Claimants with individual claims need to remember to request payments weekly. Employers filing employer filed claims also need to file every week on behalf of their employees checking the wages reported and the date listed on the spreadsheet for accuracy.

Alabama Department of Labor Questions

How can people track their unemployment claims?

They should go online and use the claims tracker: https://uiclaimstracker.labor.alabama.gov/

What is the best way to get in contact with representatives at unemployment offices while people are out of the office?

We continue to have high call volume on the inquiry line, once someone is able to leave a message to get on the call back list, we will return the call, although it may take five days or more.

If there are discrepancies on a person’s filing, how can they fix it?

There are certain pieces of info that can be updated online, like address, bank account, email, etc. but others have to be corrected by a staffer.

Is there a possibility of unemployment funds running out due to the increase in people filing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

At this point, that is not a concern.

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