Atlanta (WAOK)-Thousands of unemployment recipients in Georgia may be in for a rude awakening soon. It seems that the state of Georgia borrowed $721 million from Washington to help meet unemployment compensation committments. Now the bill is due and the state may have to repay the debt by cutting back on jobless benefits.

The state Labor Department will send a $21.4 million check to Washington this week, the first payment on debt run up since late 2009. Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is weighing a slew of repayment options, but strongly hinted he favors cutting benefits — both the weekly amount and the number of weeks of eligibility.

Butler said he opposes raising or re-instituting taxes employers pay into the unemployment insurance fund. By mid-October, he’ll offer Gov. Nathan Deal and legislative leaders a list of options to repay the debt.

Why is Georgia running short on unemployment funds?

Read more in this report from the AJC

Washington is considering waiving or postponing repayments, and the issue will come up again this fall as Congress weighs President Obama’s jobs bill. Congress will also take up another extension of federal unemployment insurance due to expire by year’s end.

The commissioner suggested that cutting the eligibility time frame, as well as weekly amounts, will be recommendations for the General Assembly to consider. Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina this year cut eligibility from 26 to 20 weeks. Florida cut payouts from 26 to 23 weeks.

Butler noted that the average Georgian is unemployed for 14 weeks. He said reducing the length of eligibility is “an option we have to take a look at for the short term.” He also said that reducing weekly payments, particularly for Georgians who receive a higher weekly amount, “is part of the package we’ll be showing our private sector experts and also to the (legislative) leadership.”


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