Georgia Unemployment Benefits
The state of Georgia, in association with the Federal government, provides unemployment insurance to those who have lost their employment due to reasons not concerning their conduct or performance.
Know more about the requirements to claim for benefits, various ways to apply, contact details, and other important details that are necessary to file for unemployment insurance in Georgia.
Eligibility to Apply for UI Benefits in Georgia
The state of Georgia has set various criteria to be deemed eligible for unemployment benefits. The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) will oversee that the set criteria are met by the applicants. The requirements include – monetary eligibility, job separation, and maintenance of eligibility during the benefit period.
The state law in Georgia requires the applicants to meet the set monetary requirements to gain eligibility for monetary benefits. The monetary requirements consist of receiving ‘insured wages’, and the total wages received during the ‘base period’.
Insured wages are wages paid by the employer who pays unemployment insurance tax, and it is necessary for the applicants to show that their wages are indeed insured wages to qualify for benefits.
In the state of Georgia, the first four of the last five calendar quarters completed at the time when the applicants file the claim is considered as the regular base period. For those whose wages do not qualify for the regular base period, may consider the alternative base period. The alternative base period in Georgia is the last four calendar quarters completed at the time of filing the claim.
To meet the monetary requirements, applicants must possess the following qualifications:
- You must have insured wages in at least two-quarters of the base period
- Your wages must be equal to or more than $1,134 in the two-quarters of the base period in which you have the highest wages
- The total wages in the base period must be equal to at least one and one-half times of the wages received in the quarter in which you earned the highest wages
Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA): The regular method of calculating the WBA in Georgia is done by dividing the total amount of money earned in the two highest paid quarters by 42.
If you fail to qualify for benefits as your total wages is not equal to one and one-half times the wages received in the highest earning quarter, an alternative calculation can be used. The alternative calculations are made by dividing the total amount of money paid in the highest earning quarter by 21.
The minimum weekly benefit amount provided in Georgia is $44, and the maximum benefit amount is capped at $330. The maximum benefit period is determined by the rate of unemployment in Georgia. The chart below shows the number of weeks you may receive the benefits depending on the unemployment rate in Georgia:
|Determination of the Maximum Benefit Period|
|Unemployment Rate Adjusted seasonally||Maximum Number of Weeks|
|Less than or equal to 6.5%||14|
|Greater than 6.5%, up to 7.00%||15|
|Greater than 7.00%, up to 7.5%||16|
|Greater than 7.5%, up to 8.00%||17|
|Greater than 8.00%, up to 8.5%||18|
|Greater than 8.5%, up to 9.00%||19|
|9.00% and above||20|
The reason for your separation from your previous organization/employer is one of the crucial criteria which can affect your claim for benefits. The applicant must have not lost his/her job due to any fault of his/hers. To gain eligibility for benefits, all the points below must apply to the applicants:
- Lost the job due to no fault of theirs whatsoever
- Have earned wages at least 10 times the weekly benefit amount of your claim
- You were laid off due to lack of work, or your employer has reduced your working hours due to lack of work
- You were not involved in any criminal activities in your previous organization leading to your job separation
- You were not fired for reasons that come under the definition of misconduct
GDOL will contact your previous employer to obtain information on your job separation and will verify the reasons presented by you. The department may deem you ineligible if the reason given by you for job-separation is not the same as the reasons given by your previous employer.
Once the applicants prove their monetary eligibility and justify their reasons for separating from the previous organization, they would be eligible for monetary benefits. This, however, doesn’t mean that they would receive benefits throughout the benefit period.
The applicants have the responsibility to maintain eligibility throughout the benefit period. To remain eligible, the applicants must follow these points:
- You must be able and available to work
- You must furnish proof that you are looking for work on a weekly basis
- You are expected to seek and accept any suitable job offer made to you
- As the length of your unemployment increases, you will be expected to make adjustments in your wage expectations, working conditions, job description, prior training and/or experience
- When GDOL refers you for a job, you must apply for the same
Failing to carry out any of the above points would result in discontinuation of the payment of benefit amount.
If you were offered a job but refuse to accept the offer, you are expected to immediately report it to GDOL. The department will then determine if the reason to refuse the job is acceptable or not. You may only refuse to work under a few scenarios, such as:
- The position opened up due to an ongoing strike
- The job paid less than the prescribed minimum wage
- The wage was substantially less than the prevailing wages paid for similar work in the neighborhood
You must also remember the following points to meet the work availability and work search requirements:
- You must register to employment services unless you are exempt by law
- If you are a citizen of Georgia, you must register with GDOL
- Be physically able to perform work (even if it’s not your regular field of work)
- If you are filing an interstate claim, register with the local state workforce, but you must follow the rules and regulations of Georgia regarding your availability for work and work search requirements
- You must make at least 3 job contacts in a given week.
You must meet all the eligibility criteria, including the availability for work and work search requirements each week. GDOL may randomly conduct an audit, in which if its found that you do not meet any particular criteria, your benefits will be stopped.
How to Apply For UI Benefits in Georgia?
You can file claims through GDOL website or through telephone by using the GDOL Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system.
Once your claim is accepted by GDOL, the department will issue a benefit determination letter. The letter will show the following information:
- Your insured wages during the base period
- The probable weekly benefit amount you may earn
- The maximum number of weeks you may receive the benefits
- The probable maximum benefit amount you will be paid through your benefit period
- The periodically adjusted unemployment rate of the state of Georgia
You are advised to go through the determination letter thoroughly and in case you do not agree with any of the mentioned information, you may apply for reconsideration.
Remember to apply for reconsideration within 15 days of receiving the determination letter in writing, in your career center.
You can file a claim through the GDOL website at any time of the day. The website is operational 24 hours of the day and on all seven days of the week. You will need to create a GDOL PIN at the filing the claim the first time. You will need the GDOL PIN while filing for claims throughout the benefit period.
You can file for claims by telephone by dialing 1.866.598.4164. Follow all the instructions given by the IVR system. You will need the GDOL PIN to file for claims by telephone as well, and you may set the PIN over the phone too while claiming for benefits in the first week.
How to File Weekly Claims
Weekly claims can be claimed by either using the website or by telephone. You will have to file claims each week and must meet the set requirements each week to be eligible for weekly claims.
If you fail to claim benefits for more than two weeks in a row, you will have to open the unemployment claim account through the website, telephone or in the career centers again.
UI Benefits Amount
The UI Benefits Calculator will assist you in finding out your approximate weekly benefit amount in Georgia. Enter the appropriate values and find out how much you may receive every week.
Things to Know After Filing An Application
The responsibility of applicants does not end with the filing of the claim. There are many important aspects that the claimants should know to make sure that they are on the right track, and also should be informed about any probable issues that might pop up.
Overpayment and Fraud
If it is found that you were paid benefits that were not supposed to be received by you, it would be considered as an overpayment. If the event you receive an overpayment, you must immediately bring it to the notice of GDOL. You will be expected to pay back the excess amount received, along with any income taxes that were withheld.
GDOL identifies two types of overpayments, they are:
- Non-fraud overpayment
- Fraud overpayment
An overpayment that is received by the claimant without the intention of obtaining benefits that the claimant was not entitled to, is identified as a non-fraud overpayment.
Claimants are expected to pay back the overpayment, along with the other civil penalties, court costs, and filing fees as applicable. You can, however, request for a waiver from paying the excess amount if you did not intentionally receive the overpayment. GDOL will consider the following points to decide if the waiver must be given or not:
- The intention with you received the excessive amount
- Your financial condition after paying the overpayment, and the possible hardships you may face to make the payment
- Your prospect of getting employment to repay the overpayment
The decision taken by GDOL will be final and appeal on the decision of waiver cannot be appealed.
Also, make sure that you apply for a waiver within 15 days of the release date of the overpayment notice.
If you have knowingly received excessive payments that were not intended to be paid to you, it will be considered as fraud overpayment. The GDOl will declare it a fraud overpayment, if:
- You knowingly make false statements to fraudulently gain eligibility for benefits
- You knowingly failed to disclose important information or facts that are essential
- You misrepresent facts intentionally to obtain or increase the benefit amount
GDOL considers that fraud is committed when an applicant knowingly distorts or conceals facts with the purpose of obtaining or increasing benefit amount. If an applicant is found to have committed fraud, they will be subject to the following penalties:
- The entire overpaid amount must be paid back by the claimant
- A penalty of 15 percent of the total amount must be paid
- The interest of 1 percent of the unpaid balance should be paid by the claimants every month
- The claimant will not be allowed to collect unemployment benefits for the rest of the calendar quarter, and a year after the quarter
- The claimant may also be subject to civil or criminal penalties
Repayment of Overpayments
A claimant may voluntarily repay the dues with a lump sum payment or in the form of planned installments. If a claimant fails to voluntarily pay the excessive amount, GDOL may take one of the following decisions:
- Deducting 50% of the future benefit payments, and applying it for the overpayment
- The state may also seek legal action, including criminal prosecution
The only benefit extension program available in Georgia is the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC). EUC has, however, has become defunct as of Dec 28, 2013. As for 2018-19, there are no active benefit extension programs available in the state of Georgia.
Job Training Assistance
GDOL has many training programs in place to help people find suitable employment opportunities. In addition to providing unemployment benefits in Georgia, the Career Centers also organize workshops and events with the intention of helping the job-seekers to improve their skills.
Each Career Centers provides the following services:
- Résumé writing and cover page writing assistance
- Provides referrals and contacts of employers to job-seekers
- Labor market information
- Job search workshops
- Career assessment and job-search assistance
- Skill assessment of job-seekers, and referring them to the required training classes
GDOL also provides job-seekers an opportunity to retrain themselves to help build capacity in them to face new challenges. The retraining program allows the applicants to go back to college again and reorient themselves. Some of the retaining programs are – Georgia’s HOPE Program, The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and The Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG).
All these programs provide scholarship and grants to those who want to go to school to learn and improve their skill sets. Contact the Career Centers to know more about the eligibility and requirements.