Pandemic unemployment assistance is in the mail

Unemployment numbers continue to rise. A Georgia Department of Labor spokeswoman reports they processed last month more than one million claims. That’s more than the combined total for the previous three years. But starting today, some businesses are allowed to re-open. But what does this do to employees still seeking benefits? 

Kelsey Womack’s hair salon in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood is now open for business. 

“I’ve been able to kind of stay afloat and at least keep the lights and the rent paid here,” she told me. 

But that wasn’t going to last, not much longer. She applied for a Paycheck Protection Plan loan, but the money ran out.  She has to work. Her door says bookings are “extremely limited.” 

Another salon we visited had just opened a new, bigger space March 16.  Doors closed because of COVID-19 the next day.  The Kids Salon co-owners say they can’t re-open, not yet anyway. Getting enough cleaning supplies and thermometers for a shop that caters to children is not easy. 

“There’s no masks, of course, things we need to figure out,” said a worried Andrea Culpepper.

Her business partner Jewell Chesson agrees it’s an expensive proposition, because they got no loans either. 

“We would have to sanitize after every client.”

One of the biggest questions we get is whether you can work part-time, which is what many employers will have to offer and still collect unemployment. The answer is yes. 

In a call with Mark Butler the Georgia Labor Commission, he said, you can make up to $300 a week and still collect unemployment at your normal rate. Plus, the new federal unemployment payment of $600 a month runs through July. 

“You can get someone getting $300 in state benefits, $300 at work and they could be netting $1,200 a week,” he told the FOX 5 I-Team.

Even if you make above that $300 threshold you can still collect some unemployment. The commissioner explains the math. 

“It’s a simple formula. You’re at $300 that you’re exempted from, plus your weekly benefit that’s determined by the state. Take those two, put them together, subtract one. And that gives you the number you can’t go over as a weekly pay.”

Before COVID-19 change the economic landscape, you couldn’t make more than $55 before it impacted your state benefits. Commissioner Butler said this is something that he’d like to see become a permanent change. 

Now, if you are offered to return to a full-time job as businesses re-open today and turn it down, you can no longer expect your employer to file unemployment ton your behalf. You will be on your own. In order to keep those state benefits, you will have to prove that you have a compromised immune system, someone you care for does, or that you have no child care. 

The $600 federal check is available if you are a state unemployment recipient. 

DEVELOPMENTS FOR self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, employees of churches, employees of non-profits, or those with limited work history who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits. You are eligible for the newly created federal option called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA 

As of Wednesday, April 23rd, 104, 000 emails went out from the Labor Department. Another 300,000 are in the hopper. Check your spam folders. The state has completed more than 25,000 applications. And 16,000 of those should be getting money in the next day or two.