NEW REPORT: Under Kemp, Unemployment Insurance System Failed Georgians During Pandemic

March 7, 2022

Those seeking unemployment insurance “waited months for payments,” many “could not reach staffers to ask for help”.

A new report from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts has revealed that under Brian Kemp, the state’s unemployment insurance system failed Georgians in need of support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, which “sharply criticized” the Georgia Department of Labor’s (GDOL) handling of unemployment benefits during the pandemic, shows that many Georgians who needed support:

  • Waited months for unemployment insurance payments
  • Were unable to connect with GDOL staff for assistance
  • Received communications with outdated information
  • Had significant difficulty obtaining a scheduled GDOL appointment
  • Faced serious challenges due to the closures of career centers

In June 2021, as over 208,000 Georgians were still out of work, Kemp decided to prematurely cut pandemic unemployment insurance, depriving Georgia families of important support available in other states.

“This report shows another way Brian Kemp failed Georgians during the pandemic — tens of thousands of unemployed Georgians had to wait more than 120 days to access crucial support. During a time of unprecedented upheaval and economic difficulty, Georgia workers were failed by state leaders who dropped the ball and a flawed system which kept many waiting for help for several months. Georgia deserves a governor who won’t pass the buck on this abject failure — we need new leadership to build a system that can actually help Georgians when it’s needed most,” stated Max Flugrath, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia.


Significant Delays in Unemployment Insurance Payments: Over the period reviewed, approximately 127,000 claimants’ first payment occurred more than 60 days after initial eligibility; approximately 37,400 claimants waited more than 120 days.

Claimants Received Outdated Information: GDOL did not update all communications to reflect changes made during the pandemic, resulting in inaccurate and conflicting information which led to claimant confusion.

  • Career Center Closures – GDOL closed its career centers to the public in March 2020, but communications still directed claimants to visit a career center and many did not provide an alternative way to address the issue.
  • Work Search Requirement – In March 2020, GDOL waived the requirement for claimants to search for work. The information was updated on GDOL’s website, but many communications materials being utilized indicated a search was required.
  • Expected Time Frames – During the pandemic, the claims process took longer than usual, but the time frames posted on the GDOL website were not updated. For example, the Frequently Asked Questions page indicated that appeals are usually 
  • heard within 2.5 weeks, but GDOL reporting indicated many claimants waited a year or more before the appeal was heard.

Career Center Closures Increased Challenges for Claimants: Without career centers open, claimants could attempt to contact GDOL via phone, email, or web inquiry. However, claimants reported that they were frequently unable to reach GDOL through these methods and that career center phone numbers went straight to voicemail. Many claimants were unable to contact GDOL using any channel (phone calls, emails, and web inquiries), leading to claimant frustration and more inquiries. It also likely led to the filing of duplicate claims and unnecessary appeals.

  • Phone Calls – GDOL experienced a significant increase in call volume when the pandemic began. During the first half of 2020, most calls went unanswered. In the two months before the pandemic began, GDOL answered approximately 19% of incoming calls—most calls (67%) were sent to voicemail. The answer rate fell early in the pandemic, with only 4% of calls being answered by GDOL staff and most calls (78%) never reaching a person or voicemail due to system capacity. 

GDOL Lacks Systems to Track Claimant Inquiries: GDOL does not have systems in place to ensure that claimant inquiries have been effectively and efficiently addressed. The large volume of inquiries during the pandemic coupled with a decentralized customer service system led to customer service failures — unfulfilled requests, delays in claims processing, and additional inquiries. While many claimants’ emails, web inquiries, and voice mails went unanswered during the pandemic, others may have received responses from multiple GDOL staff.


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