SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Even as the country begins to reopen, more Americans are filing for unemployment benefits.
Here in Georgia, 581,820 people are unemployed. Some are still waiting for their first unemployment check.
"Thank you for calling the Georgia Department of Labor."
A familiar message for Hinesville residents Joe Moore and Julio Ortiz.
The two men were part of Gulfstream's massive layoff on May 1.
According to the Georgia Department of Labor, there are more than 2 million unemployment claims.
Moore and Ortiz said that process hasn’t been easy.
“I wasn’t sure if I had maybe filled something out incorrectly, so when I tried to reach out to unemployment, it would take you straight to voicemail,” said Moore.
After a month of not hearing from the GDOL, Moore received his unemployment payment Thursday, but only a week’s worth.
“That would be something I would want to call and rectify the problem,” he said.
However, Moore hasn’t been able to talk to anyone; and Ortiz is still waiting for his payment.
“I call every other day, email probably twice a week, and it’s just the same thing. It’s the same...it’s like a broken record,” said Ortiz.
Both men understand the unemployment office is flooded with claims, but said communication is key, especially when it deals with people’s livelihoods.
“When people rely on it and you don’t know, those bills tend to catch up,” Moore said.
If there’s a mistake on the claim, Ortiz said people need to know that so they could fix it.
“A hundred-percent of the unemployment people that are going through this process would do that,” he said.
WTOC’s Amanda Aguilar spoke to the Department of Labor’s commissioner, who is discouraging people from calling to check up on a claim.
“Unless you’ve got something from us that you’ve got an issue with your claim, then you probably don’t have an issue with your claim,” said Mark Butler, GDOL Commissioner.
Mark Butler said the Department of Labor has increased staffing, but asks people to be patient.
An individual claim can take up to 35 days for the first payment, compared to an employer-filed claim, which could take a week.
As the state begins to reopen, the office is seeing some people choose not to go back to work after their employer has offered them a job. Butler said this will delay a payment even longer, as it has to start all over.
Here are the April unemployment rates of some of the largest counties in the Coastal Empire:
- Liberty County - 10 percent
- Bulloch County - 11 percent
- Effingham County - 12 percent
- Bryan County - 13 percent
- Chatham County - 16 percent