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‘It made me afraid’: Georgia to eliminate weekly $300 federal unemployment benefit



GEORGIA  — Starting in late June, Georgians collecting unemployment will notice their checks are smaller. Earlier this week, Gov. Brian Kemp announced the state will opt out of federal aid that added $300 dollars per week to unemployment checks.

Right now, more than a quarter of a million jobs are listed on the state’s “Employ Georgia” website.

The decision is sending shockwaves through many Georgians who tell us they need the financial support while they try to get hired. For people like Sandy Gorman, the announcement wasn’t good news.

In April, the Macon-based hairstylist broke her foot.

“That put me out of work and surgery came a month later, and here I am two weeks post-surgery,” she said..

She is currently claiming unemployment until she can get back to her salon chair.

“Not everyone is wasting the money. Some of us are barely using that just to pay electricity, water, get groceries. We’re getting by. We’re not wasting it. I’m sure that’s happening, but it’s not an every day occurrence for all of us,” she said.

Along with opting out of the federal aid, Georgia is also cutting off programs that pay federal money to people not usually eligible for state unemployment, or who have been on jobless aid for longer than the state allows. The move, according to Kemp, is to encourage more people to return to work.

Gorman says she wishes they would have given more notice.

“It startled me and it made me afraid, as I’m sure it has a lot of people,” she said.

Tiffany Shaw lost her job last year. After repeatedly calling the Georgia Department of Labor with no luck and no check, she got a temporary job. Just two months ago, her husband was laid off and neither one ever saw any of those unemployment benefits.

“They’re helping people who have been on it and my husband who has been laid off for two months can’t even get anything,” said Shaw.

However, she does say the the changes Kemp is making are probably for the best.

“I do think it’s good because a lot of people do need to go back out and go to work,” she said. “You’re not supposed to be on unemployment for a year and a half.”

As for Gorman, she says she sees the comments online telling people to ‘get off the couch and get a job,’ but she wants to remind people that everyone’s situation is different.

“If I could, I would love it. I want to work so bad right now. There are those that can’t and we’ve all got to work together,” said Gorman.

The change will take effect June 26, and it’s important to note that unemployed Georgians will still receive up to $365 in state benefits.

Nationwide, the Labor Department says 473,000 Americans applied for unemployment last week. That’s about 34,000 less than the week before, and it marks a new low since the pandemic began over a year ago.