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Covington woman says family struggling without unemployment aid

COVINGTON, Ga. — As of Thursday, July 16, the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced it had processed more than 3 million unemployment claims since mid-March. 

According to a report from the GDOL, less than half of the claims proved valid to pay. Invalid claims could be duplicate filed claims or those without enough earned wages to receive benefits.

Of the valid claimants, 91% have received their benefits, totaling nearly $9.5 billion since March 21.

Jacqueline Mason, of Covington, was one of the first to file for unemployment after losing her job as a health care data analyst due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she hasn’t been getting the benefits she says she qualified for.

“I applied for benefits and qualified, but I still haven’t received anything,” she said. “It’s been more than six weeks.”

Mason said she had reached out to the GDOL with questions, specifically for Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler, but to no avail.

Now, the 52-year-old’s family of five is struggling to get by.

“I have exhausted all of my funds. I cannot pay any bills for the month of July,” Mason said. “I have no money.

“I understand our country is in a dilemma,” she continued. “I’ve been patient, but you don’t know how aggravating it is to get busy signals and be put on hold without ever talking to anyone when I call … I just need help.”

While waiting for her benefits, Mason said she has relied on local food banks and giveaway events to help provide for her family. She was also hopeful to find another job soon.

As of June, the unemployment rate in Newton County decreased to 8.4%, a decrease of 1.6 percentage points. A year ago, the rate was 4.3%. 

Newton County ended June with 45,912 employed residents.  The number increased by 1,311 in June and was down 4,024 as compared to last year. Initial claims for unemployment decreased by 30% in June. When compared to last June, claims were up by about 3,091%.

Statewide, the unemployment rate was 7.6% for the month of June, 3.5 percentage points lower than the national rate of 11.1%.

The Covington News reached out to the GDOL and Butler for comments but was not provided an immediate response. 

The status of one’s unemployment benefit claim may be checked at