COVID-19’s devastating effects on the economy have already left millions of Americans facing unemployment, with some states hit harder than most. In Georgia, 1 in 10 workers are now registered as unemployed. If you’re a Georgia resident who’s lost their job or had their income reduced as a result of the crisis, unemployment benefits could help you stay afloat.
Who’s Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Georgia?
If you've lost your job or suffered a reduction in income, you may be eligible to claim unemployment insurance benefits from the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL).
Under the normal guidelines, eligibility is restricted to those who:
- Have earned sufficient wages over the past 18 months to meet minimum income requirements (typically, you will need to have earned for at least 6 months in the preceding 18 months, and have earned at least $1,134 over 2 quarters).
- Have lost their job through no fault of their own.
- Are able, available, and actively seeking work.
- Who are lawfully present in the US.
- Further to the introduction of the CARES Act on March 27, GDOL no longer requires applicants to be either able to work or actively seeking work if their unemployment is a result of COVID-19. If any of the following applies to you, you may still be eligible for unemployment benefits regardless of your work-search status.
- You have COVID-19.
- You are in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 (a medical certificate confirming the exposure will be requested).
- You are a caregiver to someone who has COVID-19 or who is in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
- You have been furloughed because of COVID-19.
- You are working reduced hours because of COVID-19.
- You are unable to work because of COVID-19 related school or public transportation closures.
- You are self-employed, a freelancer, or a gig worker whose business has been adversely affected by COVID-19.
How Do I Apply for Unemployment Benefits in Georgia?
As claims are effective from the date they are filed, rather than the last day worked, it’s recommended you file your claim as soon as possible after becoming unemployed.
- All claims are administered directly by GDOL and can be filed online.
- Visit the online portal
- Create your profile by entering a valid email address.
- Follow the prompts to complete the application.
- As part of your application, you’ll be asked to provide:
- Your Social Security number.
- Your Georgia driver’s license or State ID number.
- A bank account number and bank routing number if you choose to have your unemployment payments made via direct deposit.
- Your work history for the last 18 months to include the name, address, and phone number of all employers, begin and end dates of your employment, gross earnings (income before tax) during each period of employment, and the reason for separation.
- Depending on your situation, you may also be asked to provide:
- Alien registration number or other work authorization form, if you are not a US citizen.
- Form DD214, if you have served in the military during the past 18 months.
- Form SF-8 and your most recent paystub, if you were a federal employee during the past 18 months.
- Union name, hall number, and phone number, if you are a union member.
What Happens Once I File My Claim?
Once you submit your claim, the GDOL will review your eligibility and inform you of their decision via a determination letter within 3 - 4 weeks. If any additional information is requested as part of the review process, it’s imperative to supply this as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary delays or problems with your claim. Your first payment will be made within 3-4 days of the determination letter being sent. Even while a decision is still pending, it’s vital you verify your claim weekly. If you forget, you won’t be entitled to payment for any missed weeks. To file your weekly benefits claims, visit the GDOL website or contact them directly on 1-866-598-4164.
How Much Will I Get?
To calculate the amount of your unemployment benefits, GDOL take the total wage from the two highest-earning quarters of your base period (i.e. the 18 months preceding your claim) and divide it by 42. This will be your weekly benefits entitlement. If you’d like to get an estimate of your likely entitlement, you might like to check the online unemployment calculator at Fileunemployment.org. Since the introduction of the CARES Act on March 27, unemployment applicants are entitled to claim a supplementary $600 flat payment per week until the end of July. If you are already in receipt of benefits, no action is required. GDOL will review your eligibility based on the information already provided, and issue any due amounts, retroactive to March 29, separately to your usual state benefits payments.
How Long Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits?
Typically, unemployment claimants in Georgia can collect benefits for between 14 and 20 weeks, depending on the state’s unemployment rate at the time of your application. However, as Motley Fool reports, the CARES Act has extended that period by a further 13 weeks, allowing you to claim for up to 33 weeks until the end of July.
Can I Appeal if My Claim is Denied?
If your claim is denied, or if you disagree with the number of weeks or amount of weekly benefits that has been decided, you can challenge the decision within 15 days of the mailing date of your determination letter. You will need to state the determination you disagree with (this can be taken directly from the determination letter you receive from GDOL), along with an explanation of your reason for appealing, your Social Security number, full name, and contact information.
Send all required information either by mail to Georgia Department of Labor, 148 Andrew Young International Blvd Ste 525, UI Appeals Tribunal, Atlanta GA 30303-1734; by email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or by fax to 404-232-3901.
Within 3 weeks of receiving your appeal, the GDOL will advise you of the date and time of your hearing, along with who the hearing officer will be. Unless you specifically request an in-person hearing, all appeals are heard over the phone. If after the initial hearing you still do not agree with the decision, you may file a further appeal with the Board of Review. Until a final and definitive outcome is reached, continue to file your weekly claims to avoid any subsequent problems in payments.
Written by Bill Vix
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