Ga. Department of Labor answers why some residents are still waiting on unemployment benefits

Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 3:26 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 1, 2021 at 4:58 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s a story we’ve been following since last year - unemployment in Georgia.

We’re now more than a year into the pandemic, and WTOC is still getting calls and emails about Georgians waiting for their unemployment benefits.

The Georgia Department of Labor commissioner says the agency has been caught up with processing unemployment claims, as well as paying out eligible claims. He says there’s no backlog. The agency is also caught up on benefit eligibility hearings.

So we asked why are some Georgians saying they still haven’t got paid?

“What do you say to those people? Are you essentially saying, if you don’t have your money by now, you’re not going to have any money? You just didn’t qualify,” WTOC asked.

“What I would say is, please understand, I want everyone out there to understand. Not everybody who applies for unemployment is eligible for unemployment,” said Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.

When an individual applies for unemployment, Butler says, by law, the GDOL must send them this letter - a benefit amount eligibility letter, which says if you are approved you qualify for this amount of money.

Butler says some think this letter means they are set to receive unemployment, when in fact, it’s the second letter that will say whether they were approved or denied.

“That is the actual determination of whether you’re going to get paid. At that point they can appeal that decision and it goes forward.”

It’s important to note that Butler says there’s still a massive amount of appeals, which he says can go as high as having an appeal hearing in front of the Superior Court. Ultimately, the appeal process will decide whether someone will receive unemployment or not.

For anyone who believes they should be receiving money and have not, and are not in the appeals process…

“If it’s a case, where they’ve been turned down and they’ve lost their appeal, they’re not going to get paid. We cannot pay them.”

An appeals process isn’t the only way to be stuck in limbo. A former employer could hold up your chance at benefits.

Hinesville resident Saudi Plowdeniz says he was laid off in March due to the pandemic.

He applied for unemployment, and says the GDOL notified him that he wasn’t eligible because he didn’t work.

“So I sent them my tax form to show them that I’ve been working, because I wouldn’t be getting any money this year, or actually owing it, if I wasn’t working,” said Plowdeniz.

For the past seven months, he’s been waiting to hear back from the GDOL about the status of his claim.

WTOC went to Commissioner Mark Butler about Plowdeniz’s issue.

“They didn’t provide any wages back, so,” Butler said.

So Butler says, if the Department of Labor can’t confirm with the former employer that you were laid off, and that employer doesn’t send your proof of employment then there’s essentially, “no valid claim.”

“If he truly has wages and he actually did work there, if that’s true, then he needs to find out, what’s going on and why they don’t report his wages,” Butler said.

After speaking with the commissioner, WTOC did pass that information to Plowdeniz who is now speaking to his former employer’s HR department to find a solution.

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