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Getting unemployment benefits still a struggle for some, 1 year after pandemic began

'The phone lines are always busy you can never get on the phone with them.'

ATLANTA — For nearly a year, 11Alive has received complaints from viewers about the Georgia Department of Labor. The biggest challenge viewers have faced is receiving their unemployment money during the pandemic.

"I just want the Georgia Department of Labor to get their stuff together, I really do," said Amber Hudgins. 

Hudgins was laid off in March 2020. Since then, she was able to find part time work at Walmart. But she said the amount she makes at her part time job is not enough to disqualify her from unemployment payments. 

She told 11Alive's Natisha Lance the payments were coming until January - when they suddenly stopped. Since then, she said she’s been trying to get answers from the Georgia Department of Labor. 

"The phone lines are always busy you can never get on the phone with them," she said.  

GDOL said it’s looking into her case.

RELATED: Army veteran frustrated after unemployment payments suddenly stopped

But Hudgins' story isn't unique. Almost daily, 11Alive hears similar complaints from viewers – frustrated, confused and for some, on the brink of losing everything. 

"I’m afraid of losing my car now because I’ve already lost my place of residence, so the only thing I do have is my car," Jaquita Taylor explained.

We spoke with Taylor over the phone, because she didn’t have a place to go with Wi-Fi. She said some nights, she’s been forced to sleep in her car. She shuttles her three kids - ages 3, 6 and 8 - between family and friends to keep them safe and in virtual school. 

"I don’t like the fact that I can’t do for my children as I was doing before this COVID-19 started," Taylor said.

Her payments stopped last month, too. She said she can't get a new job because she had to be with her kids for their remote learning. 

GDOL told us there was potential fraud on Taylor's account, which stopped her payments, but the mom of three said she was never informed. 

"I have gotten in touch with one representative, and, of course, he acted like he didn’t know what was going on," she said. 

GDOL acknowledges there are flaws in their system. Despite the complaints, the agency said it processes the fourth-highest amount of unemployment claims nationwide, already paying out $18 billion in benefits since the pandemic began.

The agency told 11Alive the most common issue they see with those filing for benefits is people who think they’re eligible for benefits but are not. Of those 4.4 million claims filed, only about 2.1 million are valid, the agency said.