ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — Two days before Georgia halts the supplemental unemployment payments, labor unions and legislators rallied outside several Department of Labor offices in Metro Atlanta.
“We are facing over 200,000 Georgians who will be off benefits,” said Sandra Williams, the executive director of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council, calling for the benefits to continue. They joined the “We Can’t Wait: National Day of Action on Unemployment.”READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Will There Be Another Relief Payment?
O“Citizens are showing up down here today, because on the website, it indicates they’re supposed to be open,” said State Representative Derrick Jackson (D-Dist. 64). “We’re here to urge the Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler to open up the doors.”
The doors at all locations have remained locked for over year, including the main office in Downtown Atlanta. “Why are the doors to the Department of Labor still closed, when every other business is open for business in the State of Georgia,” said State Representative William Boddie (D-Dist. 62). “We sense no sense of urgency from Mark Butler or from our Governor Kemp,” Williams said.
State and community leaders are accusing Kemp and Butler of forcing Georgians back to underpaid jobs. They say people aren’t getting the help or answers to general questions. “I did everything I know to do, and it seems like they’re telling me I’m not eligible, and I don’t know why,” said Winfred Almond, an unemployed resident.
Some of the demands include opening the Department of Labor offices, continuing the federal supplemental unemployment benefits and providing detailed reports on the status of unemployment claims and payments.READ MORE: DeKalb Co. Sheriff's Office Holds 'Boys To Men Summer Camp'
Kemp and Butler did not immediately respond to our requests for comment, however, Kemp’s office released this statement a few hours later:
During truly unprecedented times, hardworking Georgians have stayed resilient, and businesses of all sizes have quickly adapted to an unpredictable environment,” said Governor Kemp. “Thanks to conservative leadership and our decision to re-open Georgia early, job growth and economic development in Georgia remained strong, with an unemployment rate well below the national average. To build on our momentum, accelerate a full economic recovery, and get more Georgians back to work in good-paying jobs which are readily available, we made the decision to end participation in the federal unemployment benefit program. As we continue to fully recover from this pandemic, Georgians deserve to get back to normal – and withdrawing from this unnecessary government program will incentivize more employees and businesses across our state to do so.
Kemp and Butler previously announced plans to provide job search and training resources in addition to other opportunities for unemployed citizens.
A sign outside the main DOL office indicates there are over 230,000 jobs listed on Employ Georgia. Union organizers say many of the jobs listed don’t pay livable wages. “They need work that’s sustainable and that they can support their families with,” said Williams. She described how workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic are looking for wages that are comparable to what they were previously making.MORE NEWS: Georgia Unemployed Workers March In Protest Against Labor Commissioner Butler, Governor Kemp
The demonstrators continued their rally with a sleep-out in front of the main DOL office, which was scheduled to last until Friday morning.