Georgia unemployment benefits are intended to provide financial assistance to workers temporarily out of work. The state Department of Labor (GDOL) determines claimant's eligibility under Georgia's unemployment insurance (UI) laws by reviewing their work history and earnings. Any worker that meets the qualifications is eligible regardless of the specific number of hours they worked in a week, and full-time status is not required. Part-time workers may also qualify under the expanded federal UI program for those out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Part-time workers can be eligible for unemployment benefits in Georgia as long as they earned the minimum amount required to qualify under state law.
Georgia Unemployment Laws
An unemployed worker in Georgia worker initiates a request for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits by filing a claim with the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL). In order to qualify for benefits in Georgia, workers must:
- Be unemployed through no fault or misdeeds of their own.
- Have earned certain minimum income during the base period established by Georgia law.
- Be able to work and be actively seeking employment.
As long as the worker meets these qualifications, they are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true regardless of whether their official status was full time or part time.
Base Period and Income Requirements
Employers in Georgia finance the state's unemployment insurance program. They are required by state law to make insurance payments on behalf of workers. Not everyone who works a few hours will be covered, however. Under state insurance rules, an employee must have worked for a certain amount of time (termed a base year) and earned a base amount of income to be eligible for UI.
The base period for eligibility includes four three-month segments, called calendar quarters. The GDOL looks at the earliest four of the five calendar quarters that have passed just prior to a benefit claim. For example, if a worker is laid off in January 2021, the five prior calendar quarters run from October 1, 2019 through December 31, 2020. The GDOL looks at the earliest four of those – the final quarter of 2019 and the first nine months of 2020 as the base period.
During this base period, the worker must have earned wages of at least $1,134 in two or more of these four quarters. In addition, the total wages earned in the base year must be at least 150 percent of the wages earned in the highest quarter. There is no requirement that the worker had been employed for 40 hours a week or had full-time status. If a part-time worker earned at least $1,134 in two quarters, is unemployed through no fault of their own, and is actively seeking employment, they qualify for UI in Georgia.
Unemployment Benefit Amount
The amount of the weekly UI benefits a worker will get in Georgia varies depending on their earnings. The range of possible benefits starts at $55 a week and goes up to $365 a week. The more wages the worker earned in the base period, the larger their weekly benefit will be.
State law sets out a complicated formula for determining the benefit amount. The GDOL determines the worker's earnings during the two highest quarters in the base period. It adds up the wages for the two quarters, then divides this number by 42.
For example, if a worker earns $4,200 each month during the two highest quarters of their base period, the total wages for the two months would be $8,200. When this amount is divided by 42, the result is the worker's weekly benefit amount, here $200.
Supplemental Pandemic Coverage
Part-time workers may also be eligible for UI benefits under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This federal government law was enacted to provide relief to workers out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic. It expanded employment eligibility to various types of workers who may not have been eligible for UI benefits under state laws, including self-employed, gig workers, independent contractors and part-time workers. It also provided supplemental UI payments to them and extended the duration of those payments.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation
The initial law, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), was enacted on March 27, 2020 as part of the CARES Act. It provided supplemental unemployment payments of $600 per week in addition to any and all state unemployment benefits. These benefits were for any worker who lost their job or had their hours reduced due to the COVID-19 crisis; was unable to work because they had COVID-19; were caring for a family member with COVID-19; or looking after a child whose school was closed because of COVID-19. The program ran through July 31, 2020.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) law was also a part of the federal CARES Act. It extended unemployment benefits to self-employed individuals, freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors and part-time workers. The CARES Act also added 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to the 20 maximum that Georgia provides.
Continued Assistance Act
Once the federal law expired on July 31, 2020, unemployed Georgians could collect only the amounts available from the GDOL, that is, between $55 and $365 a week. But in December, 2020, Congress changed and extended the FPUC as part of the Continued Assistance Act (CAA), offering a $300 supplemental weekly amount of unemployment insurance on top of the state limits. Payments under the CAA were issued by the GDOL starting the week ending January 2, 2021 and are set to continue through March 14, 2021.
The CAA also extended the PUA program, which makes the self-employed, gig workers and part-time workers eligible for benefits created by the CARES Act. These provisions set the maximum duration of PUA benefits at 50 weeks, up from 39 weeks. The PUA program also expires on March 14, 2021. It appears that Congress may extend these supplemental unemployment benefits and the length of time a worker can collect these benefits.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.