Independent contractors, others still waiting for unemployment in Georgia

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Workers who provide personal services to clients report they still have not received unemployment.  

We spoke with independent contractors who work as licensed massage therapists.  Despite the state of Georgia reopening, many of them are not working at 100 percent capacity and are still waiting on unemployment.  

“Fortunately, I have a mother that’s willing to help me so that I have electricity and water,” said Linda Christie, licensed message therapist.

Since getting people on her massage table inside her home studio is a risk during the coronavirus pandemic, Linda Christie is out of work and subsequently out of money.  She spoke with NewsChannel 6 after returning from the food bank to pick up groceries.

She said, “I’ve left three or four message and have not received a call back.”

Since late March, Christie said she’s been playing the waiting game.  That’s when the licensed massage therapist explaioned she applied for the state of Georgia’s Unemployment.  In late April, she learned she qualified for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA as a 1099 independent contractor.  And for almost a month now she’s been waiting on those funds.

She’s not the only one.  

“You’re looking in your bank account and you’re praying like you have to make something work,” said Sandy Steed, who works as a licensed massage therapist too.

At home, she’s a mother of three.  She’s married and her husband received his unemployment and the two got by on the stimulus check as well.  But Steed said she’s not seeing 100 percent of her clients because many of them are high risk.  So this week, she emailed Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler to see why she’s been waiting for more than a month to get paid.

“It said if you have any questions, email. So, I emailed and I heard nothing. That’s what freaks me out because I was like I don’t know what else you need from me,” she said.

Unemployment claims spiked in March.  The Georgia Department of Labor reports the state saw a dramatic incline in initial claims along with the unemployment rate.  

One of those claims was from Sarah Butera.  She told us MAU placed her at John Deere early this year only to be the first to get furloughed in March.  Her employer immediately filed for unemployment and she followed suit, but never saw payment.  About $150 from PUA funds arrived along with an additional $600 a week from Federal PUA.  With calls going unanswered, she tweeted Commissioner Butler and he replied.  But the mother of three is still struggling. She said the stimulus check helped and she’s getting by feeding the kids beans and rice.

We sent emails and made calls to the state DOL and, at the time of this post, received no response.

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