ATLANTA — The coronavirus pandemic is putting an unprecedented demand on unemployment compensation from Georgians thrown out of work.

The state Department of Labor processed 12,140 initial unemployment claims during the week of March 15 through March 21, more than double the previous week’s 5,545 claims.

The agency is anticipating substantially higher claims in the coming weeks, with numbers expected to surpass the number of claims filed by unemployed Georgians during the Great Recession.

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To deal with the exploding demand for economic relief, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Thursday authorizing Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler to issue two emergency rules extending the length of time an individual can collect benefits from 14 weeks to 26 weeks and providing that the first $300 of wages earned in a week will not count against eligible unemployment benefits paid.

“As we work together as a state to combat COVID-19, Commissioner Butler and I are taking steps to ensure Georgia’s workforce is supported during this challenging time,” Kemp said. “I ask Georgians to continue to support their local businesses by getting take-out, tipping well, and ordering your favorite products online, while also observing social distancing and following the directives of state and federal public health officials.”

Other emergency rules were issued last week expanding unemployment eligibility for applicants, suspending work search requirements and relieving employers of benefit charges for claims related to COVID-19.

Another rule assures that employers and non-profits will not be charged for coronavirus-related benefit claims. This means their current tax rate will not be affected, relieving them of the additional burden of higher unemployment taxes during the economic recovery expected to follow the pandemic.

“We understand Georgia businesses and workers are anxious during the COVID-19 public health crisis about how to take care of themselves, their families and their businesses,” Butler said. “We are making unprecedented modifications to policies to help all Georgians survive this economic hardship and get us all back to work.”

Butler said partial claims should be filed for both full-time and part-time employees. Filing of partial claims is being mandated for an employer to file on behalf of employees affected by COVID-19 and will expedite the issuance of payment.

The Georgia numbers mirrored the filing of unemployment claims across the country. Nationally, unemployment claims skyrocketed to 3.3 million last week, more than quadrupling the previous record high.

Information on filing an unemployment claim, details on how employers must file partial claims, and resources for other re-employment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at

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