Gov. Kemp, state officials discussing changes to unemployment assistance

ATLANTA — Hundreds of thousands of Georgians could soon see a decrease in the amount of unemployment assistance they receive each week.

Governor Kemp’s office told Channel 2 Action News that state officials are discussing making changes to the current plans in place for unemployment assistance during the pandemic. These potential changes could see many people lose the extra $300 they receive each week.

Channel 2′s Matt Johnson is hearing from the community that this is a two-sided issue: some people still don’t feel safe working, but local businesses desperately need help.

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“No one wants to be on unemployment forever, and usually, I’m a worker,” said DeKalb County mother Daisha Blackwell.

Blackwell says federal unemployment benefits are keeping her family afloat while she stays at home with her kids during virtual classes.

“I don’t think everybody’s trying to scam the system, or everybody’s trying to run out the system. I mean, the reason why it was put in place because they know that we needed their help,” said Blackwell.

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Blackwell is one of 207,000 Georgians receiving pandemic unemployment assistance. Those funds could get cut off, however, as state officials address a labor shortage.

Some business owners say they are struggling to hire people because workers would rather get unemployment benefits.

Governor Kemp met with State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and sent Channel 2 Action News a statement that reads:

The Governor and Commissioner both agreed changes are needed in order to support employers who continue to see worker shortages. We expect final decisions on timing and other specifics in the coming days.

More than 250,000 job listings are currently open on EmployGeorgia.com.

Employers are being asked to report people who refuse to work or do not show up to interviews.

Blackwell says she would like to see businesses raise wages to factor in the risks of working during the pandemic.

“You’re being forced to go to work for nothing, but then you still got COVID out here,” said Blackwell.

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Not all benefits may be reduced, however. Some counties are expanding rental assistance programs.

Henry County Financial Services Director David Smith says the county has $6,000,000 to help people get up to date with their rent if they have been impacted by the pandemic. For more information on how to take advantage of Henry County’s rental assistance program, click here.

“The goal is to keep people in their homes and to prevent housing instability,” said Smith.

Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Montana have all announced changes to unemployment assistance that will take place beginning in June.