On Thursday, April 9, 2020, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce held a virtual conference call with Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. Commissioner Butler shared an overview of the expanded rules and resources recently announced by the Department of Labor as part of the state’s COVID-19 response. Due to time constraints, some questions were asked by the attendees, but were not addressed by the Commissioner. Those questions where sent to the GDOL for their response. Below are the questions and answers.
- Since employers are responsible for filing the unemployment claims, how aggressively will the GADOL be enforcing violations?
Any employer found to be in violation of the Emergency Rule to file partial claims online for full and part-time employees who are temporarily laid off or whose hours are reduced due to COVID-19, shall pay to the Commissioner for the unemployment fund the full amount of benefits paid to the employee.
- What impact will the current increase in unemployment have on future unemployment rates?
Employers who comply with the Emergency Rule will be non-charged for unemployment benefits filed as a result of COVID-19.
- Do you think the temporary change to the way unemployment claims are filed (virtually) will become permanent?
Individuals have been able to file unemployment claims online since 2011.
- There are circumstances where unemployment claims can run as long as 39 weeks, can you elaborate on this?
Individuals who file and establish a new benefit year on or after March 14, 2020 will be entitled to a maximum benefits payable of twenty-six times the weekly benefit amount. Upon exhaustion of the 26 weeks, an individual meeting eligibility requirements may be entitled to 13 weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) provided by the CARES Act. The CARES Act includes provision for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. PUA is for individuals who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits and are potentially eligible for a maximum benefits payable of 39 weeks times the weekly benefit amount.
- With the combined state and federal unemployment compensation at levels that could equal the pay of some, do you think this will increase abuse of the system?
The guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Labor emphasizes the importance of program integrity which is enforced by the Georgia Department of Labor when determining eligibility for unemployment benefits.
- Since all of us are operating in unchartered territory and subject to unintended errors, what advice can you offer employers regarding the filing of unemployment claims?
The first would be to utilize the resources available on the GDOL website. Employers should obtain and verify the following information from employees prior to beginning to actually submitting the claims on their behalf: date of birth, other names and social security numbers they have worked under in the last 18 months, mailing and residential address, and federal/ state tax withholding elections. Additionally, if work is available and the employee refuses to return to work, stop filing partial claims for the individual(s) and report the job refusal online at https://dol.georgia.gov/report-ui-fraud.
- There are bound to be employers who are not receiving information on unemployment claim changes. How is the department communicating information to employers?
Information is provided to employers via the GDOL website, social media outlets, and email blasts.
- Where can employers turn for help?
Contact your Georgia Department of Labor Business Services representative for assistance. https://dol.georgia.gov/
- Is there a provision in the law to protect 1099 contractors who have become unemployed during this time?
The CARES Act includes provision for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. PUA is for individuals who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits and are potentially eligible for a maximum benefits payable of 39 weeks times the weekly benefit amount. Click now for more information.
To view the virtual conference, click now.