ATLANTA (CBS46)—A candidate hoping to become Georgia’s next secretary of labor is asking Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of Labor Mark Butler to reopen all of Georgia’s career centers. Career centers across the state shut down to the public in 2020 after two career center employees died during the pandemic.

Nicole Horn and others are scheduled to hold a rally at the closed career center in Atlanta at 223 Courtland Street on Tuesday at 9 a.m. Horn is hoping to bring awareness to Georgia’s withdrawal from extended pandemic unemployment benefits, while the career centers in the Peach State remain closed.

Governor Kemp withdrew Georgia from the federal extended pandemic unemployment benefits program in May. Under the program, unemployed Georgian receive an extra $300 per week in unemployment compensation. The extra $300 will end for jobless Georgians on Saturday, June 26.

Governor Kemp cited an improving job market as his reason behind his decision.

“Even in the middle of a global pandemic, job growth and economic development in Georgia remained strong – including an unemployment rate 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, our state will end its participation in the federal COVID-19 unemployment programs, effective June 26th.

Horn said month’s long backlogs of unemployment claims continues to plague that department of labor.

Secretary of Labor Mark Butler said the current backlog in unemployment claims can be traced to fraudulent claims. “The current issues stem from a high number of claimants that have applied for their second year of benefits and have been found to possibly be committing fraud,” Butler said in a statement. “Couple those investigations with the majority of recently filed claims failing to verify their identity and we are left manually sifting through a myriad of fraudulent claims searching for the small percentage that are actually valid.”

Horn is asking Governor Kemp and Secretary Butler to take the following actions to assist unemployed Georgians:

  1. Immediately open Career Centers across Georgia.
  2. Increase staffing in the Department of Labor to ensure phones and emails are answered.
  3. Stop denying Georgians access to unemployment benefits funded by their federal tax dollars.

“It’s completely irresponsible to cut access to career centers at such a tenuous time in Georgia’s economic recovery. Governor Kemp and Commissioner Butler need to do everything possible to get Georgians the resources needed to get back into the labor force,” said Horn.

According to the department of labor’s website, there are at least 40 career centers across the state.

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