Planning to apply for unemployment benefits in Georgia? Here's what you need to know.
Across the United States, millions of Americans have lost their jobs or had their hours cut as businesses shut their doors in response to the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Georgians affected by job losses may be entitled to unemployment benefits, but they need to know how to get these funds. This how-to guide to applying for unemployment in Georgia can help.
Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?
To qualify for unemployment in Georgia:
- You must have earned wages during at least two quarters of your base period. The standard base period is the first four calendar quarters of the last five completed quarters at the time you claim your benefits. So if you file in April 2020, your base period would be January through December 2019. There's also an alternative base period, which is the last four calendar quarters completed before you file your claim. For an April 2020 filing, the alternative base period would be April 2019 through March 2020.
- Your wages must have been at least $1,134 during the two quarters in the base period when your earnings were highest.
- Total wages earned during your base period must add up to at least 1.5 times the amount you earned in your highest quarter during the base period.
- You must have separated from your job through no fault of your own.
- You must be available and actively searching for suitable work.
Georgia has waived work search requirements in response to COVID-19 and has also made it clear that workers who are sent home by their employers due to coronavirus are eligible for unemployment benefits if they are not being paid for their time off.
Employees whose hours have been cut are also eligible for benefits if their gross earnings plus their earnings allowance (which is $300 after March 29, 2020) don’t exceed the maximum weekly unemployment benefits they're entitled to.
How do I apply for unemployment benefits?
Georgia allows employers to file a partial claim on behalf of employees. If your employer does this, you do not need to apply for benefits.
However, if your employer doesn't file your claim, you will need to complete the process yourself. You can file online as long as you have a valid email address and have earned wages in Georgia over the past two years.
To file, you will need:
- Your Social Security number
- Your Georgia driver's license
- A bank account number and bank routing number if you want to get your unemployment payments via direct deposit
- Your work history over the past 18 months
You can visit the Georgia Department of Labor’s application for unemployment benefits and answer the questions provided. You'll receive a confirmation number, which you should record. And you'll need to request your weekly benefit each week starting on the first Sunday after your claim has been filed.
How much money will I receive in unemployment benefits?
In Georgia, the amount of your unemployment benefits is determined based on your total wages in the two highest quarters divided by 42. There is also an alternative benefit calculation where your total wages in your highest quarter are divided by 21.
Georgia also imposes a weekly minimum and maximum with the minimum set at $55 and the maximum at $365. However, the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act entitles eligible workers to an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits through July 31.
How long can I collect unemployment benefits?
In Georgia, the maximum number of weeks you can receive benefits is determined by the state's seasonal adjusted unemployment rate at the time your claim is filed. It ranges between 14 and 20 weeks. However, the CARES Act extends that period by 13 weeks, allowing you to collect unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks.
What if my unemployment claim is denied?
If your claim is denied and you want to challenge the decision, you must submit a written appeal within 15 days of the date on the claim determination. You can email your appeal, submit it online or fax it. You'll need to include certain information on your appeal including:
- The date of the decision you're appealing
- The docket number if you're appealing a decision made by the Appeals Tribunal Administration Hearing Officer
- The Social Security number and name of the claimant on the decision being appealed (if you're emailing or faxing your form, you can stick to just the last four digits of the Social Security number)
- Your name, address, and phone number
- A detailed explanation of the reason for the appeal
During the appeals process, you should keep submitting your work search record and your weekly benefits claim if you want to get back pay for weeks you're eligible if the appeal is decided in your favor.
It's important to understand this process and file as soon as possible for benefits so you can make sure you have the funds you need to see you through the coronavirus crisis.