Georgia unemployment claims skyrocket amid virus outbreak

Across Atlanta, businesses like Best Buy are scrambling to accommodate shoppers shaken by COVID-19. We ordered some television equipment, and a Best Buy employee ran it out to our car to deliver, keeping as safe a distance as possible.

Over at Home Depot, employees diligently tracked how many customers have gathered together, as everyone is trying to adjust to the new normal.

Like Brodie Kight, who had carts full of flowers to take home to her 11-year-old twins. We asked if the kids had ever gardened before.

"A little bit. We're kind of all in right now. Not a whole lot else we can do," she said. 

Despite their best efforts to keep doors open and employees working, unemployment claims are skyrocketing.

"There is no way you can prepare for this because it's just one of those unimaginable things," said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.

Commissioner Butler said last week a little more than 12,000 Georgians filed unemployment claims. More than double the number of claims the week before. 

"We've never seen anything like this, there is nothing to judge it by. To see this amount of people, all of a sudden, out of work in such a very, very short period of time," said Butler.

Butler says traffic on the Labor Department web site, where you can file your unemployment claim, has skyrocketed -- 425,000 web site visitors since Sunday. A clue, that it is going to get a lot worse.

"I think You'll see a very dramatic increase when we post next week's numbers," Butler predicated.

However, there is good news for the thousands of Georgians facing bad economic news. Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order allowing Commissioner Butler to issue two new emergency rules. The state will extend the length of time a Georgian can collect unemployment from 14 to 26 weeks. And, individuals can earn up to $300 a week and still receive full unemployment.

The Labor Department web site has been swamped with visits, and we've heard from a number of Georgians who can't fill out an unemployment insurance application.

Commissioner Butler wanted Georgians to be creative when they file an unemployment claim online. Early morning. Late at night. And, be patient. The money won't come immediately. But, he says, the unemployment insurance trust fund is strong, it will come.  

Know how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting Georiga

Best prevention measures:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces


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