Businesses owe the Georgia Department of Labor more than $100 million in back unemployment taxes and Georgia’s Labor Commissioner says he has a plan for how to recoup the money.
“I’m not asking for taxpayer money. I’m saying let me go find it,” Commissioner of Labor Bruce Thompson told Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray.
Thompson said new legislation, Senate Bill 475, would change Georgia law to allow the DOL to go after those unpaid bills and refill the state’s dwindling underfunded unemployment trust fund.
“We have, we believe, $100 million that’s sitting on the sidelines that’s not been collected. We’ve identified it,” Thomson said.
Under current law, all the money DOL takes in goes to the state treasury. The proposed bill would allow DOL to keep 20% of the fines, penalties, and back payments it receives to fund its recovery work and help fund the unemployment trust fund.
Right now, the trust fund has $1.6 billion. That’s about half of what officials say it should be even in a strong economy with low unemployment.
A recession could dangerously stress the fund. When the trust fund gets too low, the federal government can order the state to replenish it with taxpayer dollars.
“I’m saying unleash me to go get money and let me keep 20% to pay for the cost of it,” Thompson said.
Thompson also said due to low staffing levels, DOL continues to have major issues responding to Georgians in a timely manner.
Thompson said statistics show 52% of their callers hang up because they wait so long trying to get someone to answer and provide help on the phone line.
“So, the average time that someone held before they hung up was 28 minutes. That should be unacceptable to everyone. But I’m going to have to have some resources to go out and make sure that the employers are paying into the trust fund like they’re supposed to,” Thompson said.
The bill was just introduced in the Senate and a companion bill is also being introduced in the House.
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