For many Richmond County crossing guards, it boils down to a lack of communication. They've got a lot of paperwork now but say they never received notice of this change ahead of time. (WRDW-TV / June 28, 2012)
News 12 First at Five / Thursday, June 28, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A group of school crossing guards in Richmond County is not happy with the Department of Labor.
For the first time, they won't be eligible to receive unemployment during the summer months, but they claim no one ever explained those changes at the state level.
"We want answers! Every time we come down here, they give us different answers," said Susan Smith, who's been an assistant school crossing guard for 23 years.
More than two dozen Richmond County crossing guards gathered outside the Department of Labor in downtown Augusta Thursday morning.
"I received a letter that tells me exactly what I would be getting per week. Then, I get this letter that states I am not eligible," said school crossing guard Johnny Myers. "It's not fair that some crossing guards here and in Columbia County are getting the money, while some are not."
Elizabeth Smith is one of the guards who did start getting money after she applied for unemployment back in May.
"They deposited $87 June 16th. Later, they sent a letter and said it's an error. And I had to return it. So I had to write a check and mail it back to them," Smith said.
Sandra George's husband is also a crossing guard. He's getting the money, but she is not.
"I don't understand why he can draw it and I, and others, can't!" she said.
The Department of Labor explains as of January, the rules changed. It now specifies anyone working for, with, or on behalf of an educational institution is not eligible.
Even though the guards are paid by the Sheriff's Office, the DOL says crossing guards are employed for the safety of the school system and therefore fall in the new category.
In addition, Department of Labor Communications Director Sam Hall says they found discrepancies in some of the Augusta crossing guards' applications for unemployment.
"In accordance with this rule, such individuals are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits when reasonable assurance of returning to work exists. Some individuals [in Augusta] filed unemployment claims and reported a 'lack of work' to be the reason for separation. Based upon the information provided, they were initially determined to be eligible for unemployment benefits."
However, Halls goes on, "As it became evident these individuals were educational workers with reasonable assurance of returning to work at the beginning of the next school term, their claims were re-determined."
That means any benefits they've received must be repaid, as is standard policy.
For many Richmond County crossing guards, it boils down to a lack of communication. They've got a lot of paperwork now but say they never received notice of this change ahead of time.
"We're not standing still for something that's not right," said Sandra George.
Richmond County hires more than 70 school crossing guards for nine months of the year.