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Should I file an unemployment claim?

If your work or opportunity to work is affected by the Covid-19 crisis, you should apply for unemployment insurance benefits.


At this time in Georgia, you can only apply for unemployment insurance online or by phone. 


Read How to File an Unemployment Claim from the Georgia Department of Labor to learn how to file a claim online (this links to a PDF which may not be fully accessible) or call your local career center to file by phone. Visit the GDOL website for answers to frequently asked questions and to learn what to do after you file an unemployment claim.


What has changed about unemployment with the coronavirus crisis?

  • Important Updates to Unemployment Insurance Claims. As of April 6, 2020:

    • Employers are required to file claims on behalf of their full-time and part-time employees whenever it is necessary to temporarily reduce work hours or there is no work available for a short period.

      • If your employer DOES NOT file a claim for you, you should file for unemployment yourself.

    • The work search requirements are waived for all unemployment claims filed after March 15, 2020 for up to 120 days (sooner if the emergency is declared to be over).

    • You can now collect benefits for up to 39 weeks (this is extended from 14 weeks).

    • The first $300 of wages earned in a week will not count against eligible unemployment benefits paid. For example, if you are laid off and take a part-time job, you can now make up to $300 during the week and still receive your full unemployment amount.

    • If you get unemployment, from now until July 31, 2020, you will get an extra $600 each week on top of your usual benefit amount. You do not have to do anything to get this extra money.

      • This $600 does NOT count as income for Medicaid or CHIP.

    • Under the CARES Act, the federal government expanded unemployment benefits to many more people with Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (read more about PUA below).

    • Hearings. The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) holds appeals hearings for Unemployment Insurance cases (both Appeals Tribunal and Board of Review hearings) by telephone and these will continue as scheduled
      • IF YOUR INITIAL CLAIM IS DENIED, file an appeal and then continue to file unemployment claims while your appeal is heard. Read more about how to file an appeal on the GDOL website.


What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance under the CARES Act?

How do I apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

There are multiple steps to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Application:


Step 1Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance using the regular Unemployment Insurance application. At this time in Georgia, you can only apply for unemployment insurance online or by phone. 

  • Read How to File an Unemployment Claim from the Georgia Department of Labor to learn how to file a claim online (this links to a PDF which may not be fully accessible) or call your local career center to file by phone.

  • Once you file, you will get two emails: one that says your claim was received and another saying that your claim was processed.


Step 2: After you complete the application and it is processed, you will get a Benefits Determination letter. You will also get a Claims Examiner’s Determination letter saying whether your application was approved or denied.


Step 3: If your state benefits are denied, starting April 22, 2020, you will get an email link with the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application

  • This application will ask for information about your past wages and earnings to see if you qualify for PUA and what your weekly benefit amount will be.


Step 4: You must complete the application and submit. The GDOL will work to verify your earnings with the Department of Revenue. If they cannot, you will need to provide proof of income from 2019. The Georgia Department of Labor will accept the following types of documents:

  • If you are an employee or 1099 independent contractor, you can send copies of pay stubs, earning statements, IRS Form W-2 or IRS Form 1099 and federal income tax Form 1040 and Schedule C, F, or SE.

  • If you are self-employed, you can send IRS Form 1040 and a copy of Schedule 1, 2, C, F or SE tax return.


Step 5Once your earnings are verified, your weekly benefit amount will be decided.  You will get a PUA Benefits Determination letter in the mail stating the weekly benefit amount. You will also receive a PUA Claims Examiner’s Determination letter informing the claimant if benefits are approved or denied.


If you have already filed an Unemployment Claim with the Georgia Department of Labor, you do not have to refile a claim. The GDOL says that it will send you an email with a link to provide the additional information needed to qualify for PUA.


Do I qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

With the new CARES Act, the federal goverment expanded unemployment insurance to workers who cannot usually get unemployment. This includes:

  • people who are self-employed, 

  • independent contractors, 

  • people looking for part-time work, 

  • those who haven’t worked somewhere long enough to qualify for Unemployment Benefits, and 

  • people who cannot work for reasons related to Covid-19 (children at home, caring for someone sick, you are an entertainer and your workplace is closed, etc.)


Pandemic Unemployment Assistance does not apply to:

  • Workers who are not legally allowed to work in the U.S.,

  • Workers who are able to telework, or 

  • Workers who are getting paid sick days or paid leave. 


To get Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, you must certify that you are either:

  • Partially or fully unemployed, or 

  • Are unable and unavailable to work because you:

    • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of it and are seeking diagnosis;

    • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;

    • Are providing care for someone diagnosed with COVID-19;

    • Are caring for a child or other household member who can’t attend school or work because it is closed due to COVID-19;

    • Are quarantined or have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;

    • Were  scheduled to start employment and do not have a job or cannot reach their place of employment as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak;

    • Have become the breadwinner for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;

    • Had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19;

    • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or

    • You meet other criteria established by the Secretary of Labor.

  • This program runs from March 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020. You can get a maximum of 39 weeks of unemployment benefits.

  • These benefits will be retroactive to March 27, 2020.