ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — State lawmakers say they’re now the first stop for desperate unemployed workers who haven’t received their unemployment payments. They’re accusing the Georgia Department of Labor of shifting some of the responsibility of resolving the issues to legislators.

Jamil Thigpen lost his landscaping job during the pandemic, and he’s still looking for suitable work that will allow him to spend time with his son. “It’s hard out here right now, and the jobs that I would go for, they have their employees,” he said. He says his unemployment claims were wrongfully denied, his appeals have gone unanswered, and he says those who are abusing the system are the ones who are benefitting. “The people who really are hurting and struggling and need it are not being assisted,” said Thigpen. He’s reportedly among thousands of unemployed workers who say they have fallen through the cracks of the system and can’t reach anyone.

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State Representative Sandra Scott (D-District 76) says the GDOL has now placed part of the burden of resolving the issues on legislators. She declined to participate in their optional legislative portal program designed to collect unemployed worker data. “It is not the job of the legislator. Our job is to take care of our constituents,” Scott said, referring to the program as administrative work she says the GDOL should hire someone to do. She added, “We could be held criminally liable, and our staff, by signing onto this document.” The GDOL has rejected claims that the portal will create work for legislators and indicated it’s an optional data collection tool only. The department also indicated they are currently working with other legislators who have opted to use it.

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Scott says the bigger issue is the countless unemployed workers still waiting on checks while the GDOL doors remain closed. Congress sent a letter to State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler in May concerning a backlog of 80,000 unemployment insurance claims. The federal Office of the Inspector General audited Georgia’s and 11 other states’ distributions of pandemic unemployment insurance. “Commissioner Butler refuses to supply the OIG critical data,” said Representative Viola Davis (D-District 87). “These actions, or lack thereof, spark the question of internal harm to families and workers who’ve lost their jobs due to no fault of their own,” said Representative Kim Schofield (D-District 60).

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A GDOL spokesperson says there is no backlog and says resolving outstanding eligibility reviews and appeals is the issue. The department also denied failing to supply federal and state agencies with any requested information. She told CW69 they’re working on re-opening the career centers to resume addressing concerns in person. There’s no word on when they will re-open them.