Georgia Insurance Commissioner Mark Butler is trying to clear up misconceptions about unemployment claims for employees who were laid off but are returning to work starting Friday.
According to Butler, laid off workers who are now on unemployment or partial unemployment can still get unemployment if they earn less than $300 per week.
“Despite claims to the contrary, returning to work does not automatically eliminate an individual’s state unemployment eligibility,” Butler said. “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.”
As part of the emergency rule issued on March 26, 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.
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 worker is awarded at least $1 in state benefits, that worker is eligible to receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), the additional $600 weekly payment.
“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,” Butler said. “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.”
According to Butler, 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.
If a decision is made by an employee to separate from their 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,” Butler said. “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.