Red-state deficit politics become personal when Georgia’s Republican majority cuts unemployment benefits.
By George Bauer
April 2, 2012
ATLANTA — His name is not important; his story is. Let’s call him Joe. Life has been bad lately for Joe and others like him. And now, thanks to the heartless actions of the Republican-dominated Georgia General Assembly, things are about to get worse for many more Joes.
As legislators raced toward adjournment in the waning hours of their mandated 40-day annual session in late March, they trampled on the well-being of those who will become unemployed in the months ahead. It’s already hard enough to get, and keep, jobless benefits here in the Peach State. The pay is paltry, there’s a long wait to get the first check, and there’s little hope of getting additional benefits if claimants can’t find a job in six months.
Joe is typical. He lost his job in mid-January. The very next day Joe went to a Georgia Department of Labor office to file for unemployment benefits. The computer application process took two hours to complete. A state worker, after checking Joe’s application, told him he would not get his first benefit check until his claim had been certified by a DOL officer at headquarters in Atlanta. The call, he told Joe, should come in several days.
Only when he was certified could Joe start receiving $330 per week from the state. When Joe protested that he was making much more than that and had many bills to pay, the worker gave Joe the facts of life: everyone on unemployment in Georgia gets $330 a week — TV anchors, stockbrokers or coffeehouse baristas. And once taxes were withheld, the DOL worker said the weekly payout would be closer to $280.