Georgia Expands Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Requires Employers to File Partial Claims Online
Lindsey & Lacy, PC is following closely business and legal developments related to COVID-19. As a service to our clients, we plan to release brief general summaries of relevant developments as they become available.
In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the State of Georgia has expanded unemployment insurance benefits for certain employees. On March 26, 2020, Governor Kemp issued Executive Order 03.26.20.01, which authorized the Georgia Department of Labor to adopt temporary emergency rules to provide economic relief to individuals unemployed through no fault of their own due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Generally speaking, these emergency rules should remain in effect until the public health emergency is terminated or ceases to be renewed by Governor Kemp.
All Georgia employers should consider several important emergency rules promulgated by the Georgia Department of Labor, including Emergency Rule 300-2-4-0.5. This rule requires employers (and not employees) to file online partial claims with respect to any week during which an employee works less than full-time due to a partial or total company shutdown caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency. This is meant to streamline the processing of applications by the Department of Labor because, when an employer files a partial claim, the employer is affirming the employee is not working due to a lack of work. In such cases, benefits can be paid more quickly because a hearing is not necessary.
Importantly, for partial claim weeks beginning on or after March 15, 2020, this rule change comes with both a carrot and a stick for employers. The carrot: for partial claims filed online by the employer, the unemployment insurance account of an employer may not be charged for unemployment benefits paid to the relevant employee during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The stick: partial claims filed by the employee will still affect the employer’s rating, and any employer who fails to file partial claims online will be required to reimburse the Commissioner of Labor for the full amount of benefits paid to the employee during the unemployment period. Note that employees who voluntarily choose to not come to work must still file their own claims.
Finally, the emergency rules clarify that individuals unable to work due to the COVID-19 public health emergency who have an expectation of returning to work when the emergency ends will be considered involuntarily unemployed through no fault of their own. This clarification applies to all claims filed on or after March 14, 2020, and includes individuals who (1) are quarantined or self-quarantined on the advice of a licensed medical professional; (2) are 60 years of age or older; (3) have a medical condition making the individual particularly susceptible to COVID-19; (4) are caregivers and reside with someone described in (2) or (3) above; or (5) are custodial parents or guardians of a minor whose school is closed due to COVID-19 and is unable to secure childcare.
Several other emergency rules benefit employees working in the State of Georgia. First, the Georgia Department of Labor on March 26, 2020 adopted Emergency Rule 300-2-4-0.10-.12. For claims filed on or after March 29, 2020, this rule increases the amount of earnings an unemployed individual may earn from other work during the unemployment period. It provides that earnings of $300 or less for any week in which benefits are claimed will not affect the applicant’s entitlement to benefit. This amount was increased from $30 or $50 per week, depending on the circumstances. In other words, only gross earnings from other work (i.e., part-time work with another employer during a partial shutdown) in excess of $300 will be deducted from the unemployed individual’s weekly benefit amount.
Second, the Georgia Department of Labor on March 26, 2020 adopted Emergency Rule 300-2-4-0.11-.13. This rule provides that, for claims filed on or after March 14, 2020, eligible individuals are entitled to unemployment benefits for up to twenty-six weeks.
Third, all work search requirements mandated by O.C.G.A. § 34-8-195(3)(A) are waived for 120 days for all claims filed on or after March 14, 2020. This means that, among other things, certain unemployed individuals need not continually report to an employment office or participate in reemployment services normally required by the Department of Labor.
A complete FAQ authored by the Georgia Department of Labor for employers affected by COVID-19 is available here.
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