Credit: (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, file)
Kemp To End Federal Unemployment Benefits, Promote Economic Recovery Plan
Gov. Brian Kemp is planning to end enhanced unemployment benefits from the federal government. As of June 26, the maximum weekly benefit will be cut by $300. Georgia is one of 17 states to stop federal benefits designed to help out-of-work residents during the pandemic. Ray Khalfani with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute says many of the openings are in low wage jobs and some workers are choosing to protect their health during an ongoing pandemic. GPB’s Ellen Eldridge reports.
Ending extra federal unemployment payments is part of what Gov. Brian Kemp calls Georgia's economic recovery plan.
The governor said Thursday that, starting June 26, unemployed workers in Georgia will no longer receive the extra $300 weekly benefit from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, and benefits will end for self-employed, part-time and gig workers under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
Additionally, the state will stop participating in the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional $100 benefit to certain people with mixed earnings, and halt an unemployment benefits extension provided through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.
While Kemp said Georgia’s low unemployment rate shows there are jobs available and federal benefits could be keeping people from returning to work, Ray Khalfani with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute said many of the openings are in low-wage jobs and some workers are choosing to protect their health during an ongoing pandemic.
"Rather than blaming workers reticent to work in dangerous jobs or fail to pay a living wage, state leaders should seek opportunities to support the well-being of workers via a livable minimum wage, and improve access to health and child care," Khalfani said.
While people of all races and genders may individually face barriers to employment, Khalfani said there are still very clear racial and gender inequities at play.
April unemployment claims rose by 2% for women while declining by 11% for men, he said, noting that women often face a difficult decision between working and care-giving when affordable, accessible child care is not enough.
Black workers collect 57% of unemployment benefits, Khalfani said, and unemployment claims for Black Georgians in April were 35% higher than those of all other filers and 54% higher than those of white Georgians alone.
"What's often overlooked in this ongoing labor narrative is the racism in hiring practices, which further exacerbate unemployment trends among Black workers who are already harmed the most by the pandemic," Khalfani said. "The latest data show that in the fourth quarter of 2020 federal assistance comprised more than 80% of total U.S. income in Georgia, with pandemic unemployment assistance income alone making up 66% of income in Georgia."
The governor said in a news release that state officials will provide resources for job search support, education and training opportunities, childcare and transportation services, and safe workplace initiatives for workers, families, and employers.
"As we emerge from this pandemic, Georgians deserve to get back to normal — and today’s announced economic recovery plan will help more employees and businesses across our state do so," Kemp said.
Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the state has a historic number of jobs — more than 250,000 — listed on Employ Georgia.