Georgia officials are trying to figure out how to apply the new federal unemployment benefits to freelancers, gig workers and those in nonprofit organizations.
The CARES Act, signed by President Donald Trump on Friday, includes additional payments of $600 a week for those who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Workers who had salaried positions in Georgia and paid into the state’s unemployment system are already eligible for benefits and have been making claims in exponential numbers, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.
But gig workers and freelancers are not yet part of the state’s unemployment infrastructure and need to be added.
“We have to build a program for people who are not in our system,” Department of Labor spokeswoman Kersha Cartwright said.
Right now, the state Labor Department is still waiting for instructions from Washington and had no timeline on when the benefits will become available but added it would be “as quickly as possible.”
Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said his department is working with half the staff it had during the 2008 recession because his office had operated under low unemployment. With the coronavirus pandemic, operations moved completely online, while demand for unemployment claims shot up suddenly.
One bright spot, Cartwright said, is the fact that the DOL owns its online filing system and won’t have to wait for any third-party vendor to accommodate new people.