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'People need that extra income' | Job seekers asking governor to delay eliminating weekly $300 federal unemployment benefit

Even with so many job openings, many job-seekers are still having to work hard to find work and hoped the $300 weekly support would last a few more weeks.

ATLANTA — More than 251,000 job openings were listed on the State of Georgia’s
“Employ Georgia” website on Thursday, as the post-pandemic economy gears back up, and people return to work.

Governor Brian Kemp is eliminating the federal, $300-a-week unemployment benefit, to try to encourage more of the unemployed to get back into the work force sooner.

The decision is sending shockwaves through people who say they were hoping that that support would last a few weeks longer, past the June 26 cutoff mandated by the governor, while they are trying to get hired.

“Nobody’s just sitting up watching TV every day collecting unemployment,” said Janice Scott. "Especially working people. My mom raised me to work.”

Scott’s favorite work is acting. She said Thursday that her last acting job, in the movie “Coming 2 America,” filmed in Atlanta, was an amazing experience.

Since then there have been no acting jobs, and no other jobs she’s been able to find. She can’t afford a car and she knows she’ll need one to get a job.

Scott said she's sent resumes and applications just about everywhere. She depends on that extra weekly $300 federal check that the governor is eliminating. Kemp said he wants to encourage recipients to get off of unemployment and get a job. Scott has been trying to get a message to the governor, to ask him to delay eliminating the federal benefit just a few weeks longer.

“I have submitted and will continue to submit resumes to companies that I’m qualified for,” Scott said. “Ain’t no sense for me applying for a McDonald’s job, for them to only tell me ,‘You’re highly qualified,’ and I have had several of them to tell me, ‘Ma’am, you’re too highly qualified, we can’t hire you for this.’”

She said the $300 a week has helped keep her in her home.

“It was going toward rental assistance, so yeah, I needed it. And I still need it," she explained. "But when things happen beyond your control you have to just roll with it until you can do better. I have submitted and will continue to submit resumes."

RELATED: Georgia to opt out of extra $300 federal unemployment supplement, Kemp says

In Arizona, the governor is not only eliminating the federal benefit check, he is also promising, as further incentive to those who are out of work, a bonus of $2,000 to every person who gets off of unemployment and goes to work fulltime, and $1,000 for going to work at a part-time job.

In Georgia, Kemp is promising state support for people returning to work. He has not yet announced details.

What frustrates Sharonda Mason, who lost her job weeks ago, is that the state was quick to eliminate the weekly $300 benefit that’s not even state money, but she still hasn’t been able to get the Georgia Department of Labor to process any of the unemployment benefits that belong to her, as a longtime employee in the state. She has not seen her first check, yet.

“To be honest with you, it just seems like I’m going around in circles” with the Department of Labor claims processors, she said.

“They tell me this, and then somebody tells me another thing. So I’m not quite sure if they even know what’s going on.... If I don’t find a job soon, we’re going to exhaust all our savings, and then my household’s going to be in trouble.”

So she is increasingly aware of the crucial difference the extra $300 a week from the federal government has been making for people trying to find a job even as job listings are plentiful.

“Because there are some people out there that really need that income to keep afloat, to keep the lights on, and provide for their kids. Once they decide to not give that extra $300, a whole lot of people’s households is gonna be really, really messed up. People need that extra income to keep them afloat," she said. 

She continues to try to cut through the state’s red tape to get her unemployment claim processed, and she is worried for those who have been unemployed even longer than she has, and who have been grateful for the $300 checks as they also look for work.

“I’m gonna do whatever it takes to keep my household above water, continue to fill out applications,” for another medical assistant job, if possible, “even think about maybe going back to school to take up something different. I’m just gonna keep on looking for a job, and hoping that I get some call-backs.”

Mason and Scott are hoping that this dawn of the post-pandemic era continues to be a job-seeker’s market. They are working to make it be true for them.

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