Thousands are still waiting on their first unemployment check and federal stimulus money.

Don’t give up.

Keep pursuing and pushing for your benefits.

The process is slow and not easy to navigate.

The Georgia Department of Labor is inadequately staffed to handle the workload, but to be fair, the sheer number of people who have lost their jobs or who are on furlough is unprecedented.

Unemployment benefits and the federal government unemployment stimulus money should not be viewed as some kind of socialist, big government handout for people who do not want to work.

It is unconscionable that some people are viewing it that way.

Hardworking women and men throughout our state do not want to be unemployed.

They want their jobs backs.

They want to earn a living.

The unemployment insurance program administered by the Department of Labor in each state under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Labor is funded by the unemployment insurance tax paid by employers and collected by the state and federal government, part of the payroll taxes all employers pay.

Workers should look at unemployment as an earned benefit.

The federal government stimulus, the additional $600 per week for those who qualify, is money doled out by Congress to pump money back into the economy and to fill in the gap between what a person made while employed and the regular unemployment check which generally amounts to half of that person’s regular paycheck.

Receiving both regular unemployment and qualifying for the federal stimulus money is a lengthly process that must begin by filing with the Georgia Department of Labor.

It may take several weeks or even months to receive that first check.

Some people may even be called back to work before the first check is received but that does not mean they are no longer due lost wages or stimulus monies.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security money, known as the CARES Act, may also provide relief for unemployed workers who did not qualify for regular unemployment benefits in Georgia, but you still have to go through the same process to receive that money.

For instance, gig workers, essentially people who get paid by the job rather than being on the clock, may still be out of work and still qualify for the federal benefits.

But those workers will also have to apply the same way, be turned down for regular state benefits, then follow the prompts for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, filling out what is called a PUA application.

It is important to answer all questions on the online portal or paper forms, and then closely watch for and respond to all emails. You can begin the process and learn all the details at: https://bit.ly/2ZfVWSA

We encourage those who apply for the benefits not to be dissuaded by how arduous the process is or how long it takes.

You’ve worked hard.

You did not ask for this to happen and you deserve the benefits.

We hope everyone sees it that way.

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