Georgia’s labor commissioner is refusing to restart jobless benefits to seasonally unemployed teachers and bus drivers, setting up a showdown between state and federal officials. The U.S. Labor Department said last month that Georgia was violating employment law by denying the benefits.
Some public school workers employed by private companies say, they got a nasty surprise a few weeks ago. State labor officials last year proposed eliminating a policy that allowed such workers to collect jobless benefits over the summer. The workers say, they didn't find out about the change until recently. Union officials say, the workers now face months without income.
Workers will still file unemployment claims as they have been. But with a new electronic system, the labor department will send an email to registered businesses when a worker files an unemployment claim. Then, companies can log in to a website to contest claims or explain why they let workers go.
While the national unemployment rate improves, Georgia leads the nation in job losses. The US Labor Department says the national jobless rate declined to its lowest level in two-and-a-half years. The Labor Statistics Bureau, however, says Georgia is the only state in the nation with a statistically significant year-over-year job decline.
State labor officials say Georgia's unemployment rate has risen to 10.3 percent, the highest level since January. The Georgia Department of Labor said the seasonally adjusted jobless rate for September was up one-tenth of a percentage point from 10.2 percent the previous month.
Georgia is getting a federal labor grant of $3.75 million to help hundreds of workers affected by the closure of the Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome. State labor officials say the federal cash comes from National Emergency Grant funding to provide training and support services to about 750 affected workers.