CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) -- Craig Barkley showed up to the Clayton County employment office looking for answers after he was suddenly laid off from his job as a chef at a restaurant in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

“I’m just here trying to find some information about my job because everybody is being laid off because of the coronavirus,” Barkley told CBS46.

He pulled on the doors to find a note that indicated the office is closed to the public.

“Nobody can find the information on the internet,” Barkley said Wednesday morning. ”We show up to the building and the building is closed. Everybody is trying to get their information, but it’s kind of hard,” he added.

Barkley is one of the many people that Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is trying to get accurate information to in a sea of confusion around the unemployment process.

“It has been a tidal wave I guess you could say,” Butler told CBS46’s Hayley Mason on a video call Wednesday morning. “It’s something we’ve never experienced ever, even during the recession,” Butler emphasized about the volume of unemployment claims his office is receiving.

“Our IT team is working overnight to create programs to handle this kind of stuff automatically,” Butler explained.

He says the Georgia Department of Labor (DOL) has about 300 to 400 staff working phones statewide. They’ve been receiving between 60,000 to 80,000 calls a day.

The state DOL’s unemployment division usually sees an average of 5,000 unemployment claims per week. Two weeks ago, the state received more than 12,000 claims. This past week, Butler says he believes the office received well over 100,000 unemployment claims.

The most pressing question is “when is the money coming?”

Butler released new timelines Wednesday.

The quickest way to receive unemployment benefits is to have the employer file on behalf of the employee. Two weeks ago, the state issued an emergency mandate to require all employers to file for unemployment on behalf of their employees if they have significantly reduced hours, furloughed, or laid off their workers. If the employer files on your behalf, it should take between 24 to 48 hours to get unemployment payment through direct deposit.

You can now enter direct deposit information online within 24 hours of the employer filing. If you file for yourself, it could take 12 to 14 days to be paid.

You can sign up for direct deposit online or you’ll be mailed a state-issued debit card. The state also increased the maximum pay you can receive each week if you add a part time job.

The weekly maximum for unemployment benefits from the state is $365. The federal payment is a flat $600 a week, and you can now earn up to $300 per week on part time work. The weekly earning potential for a person on unemployment in Georgia with a part-time job is now $1,265.

Some CBS46 viewers have shared that automated messages from the DOL have been confusing. For weeks, the messages have asked people to go to their local career centers or to talk to someone person about various issues, including needing to reset an invalid pin number. Butler says those messages are old and inaccurate under this pandemic.

“If you get any kind of automated message to report to a career center, ignore that message,” Butler said. “We put in an emergency rule in place two weeks ago that suspended all in-person workshops and appointments. Also, we suspended the work-search requirement.”

If your pin was made invalid, you can now reset it on the DOL website. Butler says all accurate information relevant to the latest rules and procedures is listed under the COVID-19 sections of the website.

Butler tells CBS46 he is expecting guidance from the federal government within the next day on how the state is expected to distribute federal stimulus checks. 

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