I-TEAM: GA, SC working to streamline unemployment process as coronavirus creates economic pain

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020
News 12 at 6 O'Clock/NBC at 7

As the coronavirus causes shutdowns to shops, businesses and restaurants, many are left unemployed without a direct plan to adapt. (Source: WRDW)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Restaurants are closing dining rooms and grocery stores are shortening opening hours leaving their employees with smaller or even no paycheck. Georgia and South Carolina are working to streamline the unemployment process on both sides of the river.
 
An empty patio on a sunny day. The front door of Southbound is locked. The restaurant posted this on its Facebook page: "It is with heavy heart that we annouce we will be temporarily closing due to covid 19." Pink Dipper has a similiar post, "As Covid-19 begins to affect our local economy...we want to be transparent with you."

Only 10 customers at a time inside Farmhaus, but that is about to end, too.
 
"At 2 o'clock today we will close our dining rooms and go too. I am sorry. We are all a little emotional right now. We are going to call in orders," Susan Hlavin with Farmhaus said.

Her voice cracked with emotion as she talked with us.

"For the benefit for the public and our employees, we are doing what we can to reduce contact we are creating social distancing."

They aren't alone. Food preparation and serving jobs make up nearly 10 percent of our local workforce, which is higher than the national average.

The economic impact of the coronavirus is hitting the industry hard.
 
"In Georgia, just yesterday, we passed an emergency rule that is requiring all employers who have temporarily shut down for the coronavirus or have reduced the hours of their workers to file online partial claims," Denise Beckwith with the Georgia Department of Labor said.
 
Employers -- not employees -- must file the claim in Georgia. The state hopes this will speed up the claim process and get cash into the hands of their workers within two days. Employers face fines if they don't file on behalf of their employees. The fine is the full payment of their workers' unemployment checks.
 
The max weekly payout for unemployment is $365 a week. Employers across Georgia will split the cost of unemployement equally -- for now. The state is working to waive those charges.
 
In South Carolina the max unemployment payout is $326 a week. Employees, not the employer, must the claim and the sooner the better too- it takes up to 21 days to process.

Georgia and South Carolina Small Business Associations are working to get approval for economic injury and disaster loans for small businesses.The loans would be up to $2 million for businesses with less than 500 employees. They hope to have approval within the next two weeks.

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