Governor Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Department of Labor are partnering to ensure Georgians understand their unemployment options as the state begins the safe reopening of businesses. Governor Kemp announced plans Monday to safely and incrementally reopen sectors of the economy, and today, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler encouraged employers to work with employees to determine a successful return to work plan.
“Thanks to Governor Kemp and his support, we were able to issue an emergency rule that increased the earnings exemption amount from $55 to $300 allowing individuals to make $300 a week without reducing their weekly benefit amount,” said Commissioner Butler. “If a business opens back up slowly and their employees are returning to work with reduced hours, employers can continue to file employer-filed partial claims on behalf of their employees.”
Pursuant to the emergency rule issued on March 26, 2020, an individual can make up to $300 per week without reducing their maximum weekly benefit amount, allowing employees to work reduced hours and still qualify for state weekly benefits and the federal $600 weekly supplement.
“As we take measured steps to reopen sectors of our state’s economy, it is vital that we continue to support Georgians trying to re-enter the workforce,” said Governor Kemp. “Commissioner Butler and the Department of Labor are working around the clock to do just that. Their action under historic circumstances will continue to give our state’s workforce viable options to put food on the table for their families as we fight COVID-19 together.”
Employer-filed partial claims account for 75 percent of the state’s 1.1 million claims since March 14. Employers are required to report an individual’s weekly gross wages when certifying on behalf of the employee with the GDOL. These employer-filed partial claims can include full-time and part-time employees, as long as employers are accurately reporting an individual’s weekly wages. An employer’s account will not be charged for claims filed against it for employer-filed partial claims during this time.
“Despite claims to the contrary, returning to work does not automatically eliminate an individual’s state unemployment eligibility,” said Butler. “In fact, we designed this provision to encourage employers to continue to file while returning employees to work to take advantage of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) benefits.”
The rule states that earnings of $300 or less will not affect entitlement to benefits. Any amount over $300 will be deducted from a claimant’s weekly benefit amount, a payment determination based on an employee’s past wages. As long as a claimant is awarded at least $1 in state benefits, he or she is eligible to receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), the additional $600 weekly payment.
“This option was created with lower wage employees in mind,” said Butler. “Allowing Georgians to supplement their income by making an additional $300 or so a week while continuing to receive state benefits, and now the federal supplement, will allow them to continue to heal from the economic wounds brought about by COVID-19.”
If a decision is made by an employee to separate from his/her place of employment, the employee has the right to file an individual claim where an eligibility determination will be made based on the facts presented in the case.
“If an employee is concerned about returning to work due to exposure to COVID-19, we are encouraging employees to communicate with their employers on plans to safely return to work,”explained Butler. “We are all working together on getting Georgians back to work in a safe and stable environment.”
Information on filing an individual unemployment claim, details on how employers must file employer-filed partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at www.gdol.ga.gov.