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COVID-19 Workforce and Unemployment

The Gwinnett Chamber hosted Georgia Department of Labor (DOL) Commissioner Mark Butler for a Town Hall virtual meeting on Thursday, April 9, 2020 where he discussed resources that are a part of the DOL’s COVID-19, as well as expanded Federal programs for unemployment support through recent legislation.

The Georgia Department of Labor website is the definitive sources for individuals and employers alike with directions, updates and alerts regarding unemployment claims processes and protocols. Please visit their website at www.gdol.ga.gov .

What follows are general guidelines in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that may be of assistance during this time.

If the GA DOL website and these FAQs do not fully address your questions, please email Adam Forrand and the Gwinnett Chamber will facilitate a response from the Department of Labor as appropriate.

Frequently Asked Questions

You are mandated by the State of Georgia to electronically file partial claims on behalf of your employees whenever it is necessary to temporarily reduce work hours or there is not work available for a short period. Any employer found to be in violation of this rule will be required to reimburse the Georgia Department of Labor for the full amount of unemployment insurance benefits paid to the employee.

Partial claims results in employees receiving unemployment insurance benefit payments faster, usually within 48 hours for claims filed electronically.

In response to the recent development of COVID-19, the Georgia Department of Labor is temporarily suspending in-person requirements for services provided by the agency. In accordance with Governor Kemp’s recommendation, the GDOL is providing online access to unemployment services, partial claim access for employers, and other reemployment services. Please note that you can file a claim online 24 hours per day.

The partial claim filed by the employer cancels out the claim filed by the individual employee.

Partial unemployment benefits is calculated by the 2 highest Qtrs 2019 divided by 42.

Do not submit weekly claims for employees who are voluntarily out of work, e.g., quits, requested leaves of absence, self-quarantined, etc.

Employers may submit employer filed partial claims for full or part-time employees who are temporarily laid off or whose hours have been temporarily reduced because of a lack of work due to COVID-19.

Individuals whose hours have been reduced are eligible for the employer to file partials for them if the gross earnings plus the earnings allowance does not exceed your weekly benefit amount. All weekly earnings over $300.0 are deducted dollar for dollar from the benefit payment for week ending dates on or after 3/29/2020.

ALL Earnings (Report gross wages—amount of pay before deductions— for any work they performed during the week for which you are filing. Report any vacation pay, holiday pay, and/or earnings during the week in which it was earned, NOT during the week it was paid to the employee. Report any additional income employees are receiving to the GDOL, except Social Security benefits, jury duty income, and pay for weekend military reserve duty.

Earnings (Report gross wages—amount of pay before deductions— for any work they performed during the week for which you are filing. Report any vacation pay, holiday pay, and/or earnings during the week in which it was earned, NOT during the week it was paid to the employee. Report any additional income employees are receiving to the GDOL, except Social Security benefits, jury duty income, and pay for weekend military reserve duty.)

Eligible Individual Claims weekly benefit amount could set up from $55.00 to $365.00 a week. Each employee will be notified of what the claim sets up for individually.

All weekly earnings over $300.00 are deducted dollar for dollar from the benefit payment for week ending dates on or after 3/29/2020. The earnings allowance was $50.00 for week ending dates prior to 3/29/20.

YES, you will continue to file the Partial Claims weekly for your employees. You may use the GDOL Excel template found on our website to allow you to save information and only change earned wages and week ending dates.

UI benefits are paid on a weekly basis. You must establish a week ending date that GDOL will use for each week’s benefit. It is recommended that you choose a week ending date that coincides with the normal end of you pay period. Once you establish the pay period for employer filed partial claims, you

will file each weekly pay period. There must be 7 days between payment week ending dates. The week ending must be in the past. Claims submitted that do not meet these criteria will result in non-payment.

It is our understanding that the GA DOL system would catch the error.

GA DOL is experiencing a very high volume of claims across the state. Please check your Employer Portal to ensure your weekly partial claims have been submitted correctly.

Update from April 13, 2020 on Federal Stimulus Bill

The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) is updating its current systems to distribute federal unemployment funds as part of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) bringing economic relief to many Georgians.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, or FPUC, provides an additional $600 weekly payment to any individual eligible for any of the Unemployment Compensation programs – State and Federal. The GDOL will begin sending this additional payment to those currently receiving state unemployment benefits beginning this week. This supplement will be an additional payment to regular weekly state unemployment benefits and will include all eligible weeks beginning with the week ending 4/4/2020. Your payment may not be $600 weekly if you have elected to have state and federal taxes deducted. Federal taxes are deducted at 10% and state taxes at 6%. Unemployment benefits are taxable income. Other deductions may include court ordered or voluntary child support or repayment of an UI overpayment (one-half of your $600 FPUC payment will be deducted and applied to your outstanding overpayment).

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA, is the program that will provide unemployment benefits to those not ordinarily eligible for them. This includes individuals who are self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, employees of churches, employees of non-profits 501C3s, or those with limited work history who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits. The GDOL has modified its

current online unemployment application adding new questions to better identify those individuals who may be eligible for PUA. These individuals must be determined not to be eligible to receive state benefits before being evaluated for federal PUA benefits.

The first step is for the individual to file a regular state unemployment claim application, where you will be asked questions about your employment and wages for the last 18 months. The application for regular state unemployment benefits will be reviewed by GDOL and a written determination of eligibility will be released within 21 days.

The new federal PUA program is still under development and must be built from scratch to allow verification of wages. Once the programming is completed, individuals determined to not be eligible to be paid regular state benefits will receive an email with instructions for filing a PUA application. The GDOL has partnered with the Georgia Department of Revenue to help verify wages, subject to approval from the applicant. Emails should begin to go out to applicants potentially eligible for PUA on April 22, 2020.

Once the PUA application is received, it will be reviewed for eligibility and a written determination will be released with appeal rights. See detailed instructions on PUA.

Individuals who have already filed a claim with the GDOL and determined not eligible for state unemployment benefits and may be potentially eligible to receive benefits under this program, do NOT have to refile a regular state claim. Once development of the new federal PUA program is completed, these individuals will be identified and will receive notification by email with a link to the application or mail containing information regarding the PUA application process.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. Details on covered employers, qualifying reasons for leave, duration of leave and calculations of pay, please visit: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave.

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