Out-of-work Georgians should not see an interruption of unemployment benefits if the federal government shuts down, according to state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.
Butler told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot that the state is preparing to draw down extra money from the federal government to cover benefits for 30 days should the president and congress fail to reach an agreement before midnight Friday to stop a government shutdown.
“Anyone who is currently receiving unemployment benefits shouldn’t see anything different,” said Butler.
The state unemployment rate remains above 10 percent and Georgia must borrow money from the federal government to cover all the unemployment benefits.
But Butler said in addition to that, his office is preparing to handle claims from as many as 5,000 federal employees who may file for benefits should the government shut down. The money will come from the federal government but the state must still administer the process.
“We’re working very closely with the U.S. Labor Department to ensure that we’re taking all the necessary steps to be prepared,” said Butler.
Butler is working to make sure those employees can go online to file their claims. He’s also planning to move Labor Department staff around the state to offices expected to receive a lot of federal employee applicants. Butler said he’s looking at using facilities at the state’s technical schools as extra space to process those claims if they have to.
National parks will be closed beginning at midnight Friday should the shutdown happen. That includes Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.
We remain hopeful that there will not be a government shutdown. However, as President Obama stated, in the unfortunate event that there is a shutdown, the National Parks System will be closed, said NPS spokesman David Barna.
The Department of the Interior was more direct.
Visitor activities that require a permit including public events will not be allowed or will be canceled or postponed, the department said in a written statement. Visitor Centers will be closed and access to park areas denied.
Bettie Stewart-Greene works in the Social Security Administration. She doesn’t know yet what she’ll do if there is a shutdown.
“I have no idea what the process is,” she told Elliot outside the Sam Nunn Federal Building in downtown Atlanta. “But I’m sure I’ll follow the process.”
National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees Union District President Samuel Lovett, Sr. told Elliot he’s encouraging his members to file for unemployment even if they have to pay it back later once the government starts up again. He hopes there is no shutdown.
“If the government would shut down, it’ll cause some damage to them,” Lovett said. “We can’t find any benefit why anyone wants to shut down the government.”
Operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport, including air traffic control, TSA and Customs-Border Patrol will not be affected, according to an airport spokesman.
The shutdown will affect small business and FHA loans and will delay income tax refunds.