Skip to content
CityLab
Economy

What Reopening Georgia Might Really Be About

Why is Governor Brian Kemp so eager to reopen hair salons and restaurants? The state’s million-plus jobless claims might be a big part of this controversial move.
The Clermont Hotel's marquee displays "Be Safe Atlanta." Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has promised to reopen many businesses, despite warnings from public health experts.
The Clermont Hotel's marquee displays "Be Safe Atlanta." Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has promised to reopen many businesses, despite warnings from public health experts.Paras Griffin/Getty Images

During the last week in March, Georgia processed more claims for unemployment insurance than the state did in all of 2019. In the span of seven days, workers made 390,000 new jobless claims, and the Georgia Department of Labor says the state issued nearly $42 million in unemployment benefits.

Then the full force of coronavirus closures struck state coffers. Over the course of about three weeks in April, Georgia has paid out some $600 million in unemployment claims, according to the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. The state has processed more than 1 million jobless claims, blowing past records set during the Great Recession. It’s unclear how much money is still left in the state’s unemployment trust fund, which started the year at $2.6 billion — but without intervention, it may last only a matter of weeks.