Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced Thursday that the state will become the 13th to cut the federal supplement of $ 300 per week to the unemployed effective June 26, saying employers are demanding that the state do more to force people into the workforce.
“We are not eliminating regular unemployment,” Kemp said during an appearance on Fox News. “We are just removing this federal subsidy that encourages people not to enter the workforce.”
Georgia’s state-run unemployment program provides a maximum weekly benefit of $ 365 and a minimum benefit of $ 55.
“It’s an issue that I get pounded on every day with our small businesses,” Kemp said. “It’s not fair to people who are currently in the workforce. They are getting killed right now, they have to work so many hours. They need help. “
Advocates for additional benefits say the job market is still disrupted by COVID-19, especially because mothers can stay at home with children.
It is not known if the state will take further steps to limit the benefits. Georgia could withdraw a special federal benefit from people who generally do not qualify for state unemployment. Butler could also reduce the amount of money a person can earn and still be entitled to benefits, which he set at $ 300 when the pandemic began, meaning people who work reduced hours can still be eligible for the federal boost of $ 300 per week.
“[Georgia Department of Labor] has dispersed nearly $ 22 billion over the past fourteen months to support families in this crisis, paying mortgages, electricity bills and grocery bills when Georgians were in greatest need, ”he said Butler said. “It is essential for us to support our economy and local businesses by providing solutions to the roadblocks that many Georgians have faced when they return to work.”
So far, 12 other Republican-led states have announced that they will stop paying the additional benefit as early as June or July. This includes Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce and a number of other business groups called on Monday for benefits to be suspended, saying putting unemployed men and women “in contact with employers and returning to work is the first step” to solve a labor shortage.
“Because they cannot find a workforce, companies are starting to refuse orders, raise prices and some are even considering closing down permanently”, business groups wrote. “Many restaurants only offer drive-through pickup, not because of COVID, but because they can’t find enough workers to support large-scale operations.
Around 32,000 Georgians filed new unemployment claims in the week ending May 8, and around 121,000 people receive traditional unemployment benefits from the state program. New claims remain high, although the total number of people receiving benefits has declined.
In addition, 126,000 Georgians were receiving special federal assistance available to people who were self-employed, independent contractors, on-demand workers or employees of churches and non-profit organizations. Most states cutting the benefit by $ 300 per week are also abandoning this program, which was created to help people ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits.
Despite these numbers, Georgia’s workforce is only 44,000 below the record 5.2 million it reached in March 2020. Employer payrolls stand at 4%, or 180,000, below the record level of 4.67 million.
“Right now, the state has a historic number of jobs listed on Employ Georgia,” Butler said. “We’re seeing some of the highest pay scales with improved benefits and signing bonuses.”
Georgia had an unemployment rate of 4.5% in March, lower than the national average of 6%.
Georgian business groups recognized that there may not be enough workers to meet employers’ needs.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, state officials will provide resources for job search support, education and training opportunities, child care and transportation services and workplace safety initiatives for workers, families and employers.