ATLANTA — A group of Democratic Georgia state representatives on Friday, called for a 24/7 Department of Labor call center to help with the flood of questions and concerns people have had about their unemployment claims.
Rep. Rhonda Burnough, who represents District 77 in Clayton County, said she and other representatives still get two or three people calling each day seeking help on unemployment issues, unable to reach anyone at the state phone line at 1-800-GEORGIA (1-800-436-7442).
"They complain there's no one to talk to them," Rep. Burnough said. "They don't have any numbers to call, and it's really not even any better with the state reps, because we give their info to our assistant, who gives it to DOL, and then when we inquire to find out what the status is of a claim, we don't really get any answers. We get a general answer, but nothing specific and so it has become very frustrating."
11Alive also frequently gets emails and calls from individuals seeking answers about unemployment, saying it is difficult to reach another person on the call line.
The Department of Labor has noted that many times, people are simply confused about how they're supposed to claim unemployment, what their own status is, and when or how many payments they're supposed to receive.
They also noted in a statement that "a huge portion of the issues we have seen with claims stem from individuals who have quit, have been fired, or have not had a job in the past year who believe they are owed benefits from the state regardless of their separation reason."
Talking to another person on the phone, Rep. Viola Davis of District 87 in DeKalb County said, would help clear up confusion, even for those who ultimately do not have a valid claim. She said that people, often facing hardship, "deserve the dignity and respect of a response, and that is the reason we are requesting a fully staffed call center."
The DOL said it was setting up a call center at the moment in Dalton and has plans for another two to come online in the first quarter of 2021.
The department also outlined additional hires, including 20 appeals hearing officers, 15 claims examiners, and 10 fraud investigators. The department said 50 others were added on staff last month "to assist with fact-finding for eligibility reviews," in order to vet claims. The department said it's also partnered with Georgia State University to utilize college students in part-time roles "to help docket appeals cases."
"These Democratic representatives need to be praising the sacrifices made by the employees working seven days a week for the past nine months instead of accusing these hard-working Georgians of not addressing the needs of claimants," the DOL statement said. "We are running an unemployment insurance program that supports both the employer and the employee and we are responsible for making lawful benefit determinations based on the evidence presented in each case."