A new report from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts has revealed that under Brian Kemp, the state’s unemployment insurance system failed Georgians in need of support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report, which “sharply criticized” the Georgia Department of Labor’s (GDOL) handling of unemployment benefits during the pandemic, shows that many Georgians who needed support:
In June 2021, as over 208,000 Georgians were still out of work, Kemp decided to prematurely cut pandemic unemployment insurance, depriving Georgia families of important support available in other states.
“This report shows another way Brian Kemp failed Georgians during the pandemic — tens of thousands of unemployed Georgians had to wait more than 120 days to access crucial support. During a time of unprecedented upheaval and economic difficulty, Georgia workers were failed by state leaders who dropped the ball and a flawed system which kept many waiting for help for several months. Georgia deserves a governor who won’t pass the buck on this abject failure — we need new leadership to build a system that can actually help Georgians when it’s needed most,” stated Max Flugrath, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia.
Significant Delays in Unemployment Insurance Payments: Over the period reviewed, approximately 127,000 claimants’ first payment occurred more than 60 days after initial eligibility; approximately 37,400 claimants waited more than 120 days.
Claimants Received Outdated Information: GDOL did not update all communications to reflect changes made during the pandemic, resulting in inaccurate and conflicting information which led to claimant confusion.
Career Center Closures Increased Challenges for Claimants: Without career centers open, claimants could attempt to contact GDOL via phone, email, or web inquiry. However, claimants reported that they were frequently unable to reach GDOL through these methods and that career center phone numbers went straight to voicemail. Many claimants were unable to contact GDOL using any channel (phone calls, emails, and web inquiries), leading to claimant frustration and more inquiries. It also likely led to the filing of duplicate claims and unnecessary appeals.
GDOL Lacks Systems to Track Claimant Inquiries: GDOL does not have systems in place to ensure that claimant inquiries have been effectively and efficiently addressed. The large volume of inquiries during the pandemic coupled with a decentralized customer service system led to customer service failures — unfulfilled requests, delays in claims processing, and additional inquiries. While many claimants’ emails, web inquiries, and voice mails went unanswered during the pandemic, others may have received responses from multiple GDOL staff.