"It is unconscionable to me that we would not make a small fix in state law that will provide $175 million to Georgians currently receiving unemployment benefits. These are citizens who have worked long and hard and who have paid into the unemployment benefits system," Abrams said.
Abrams said Georgia has become a donor state.
"This is money already appropriated by the federal government to Georgia. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, why we would refuse to pay the final 20 weeks of allowed unemployment benefits?" asked Rep. Brian Thomas (D-Lilburn).
At issue is a technical change to Georgia code required by the federal government in order for the state to continue to receive federal unemployment dollars. The federal government allows up to 99 weeks in unemployment benefits and has already appropriated that money to Georgia.
"Georgia taxpayers - individuals and businesses - have paid into the unemployment insurance fund. They do this in good times because in tough economic times people need a chance to get back up on their feet and get back to work. Denying this $244 a week to Georgians who were working before the recession hit and were making a contribution to our state is not just heartless, it also diminishes family purchasing power in a down economy and further delays recovery. It's counterproductive. It wastes money," Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-Columbus) said.
Recipients of this appropriation represent those on unemployment the longest - and statistically those who have the most difficulty finding work.
The average unemployment compensation to these Georgians is $244 per week. Labor Commissioner Mark Butler has said there would be no additional cost to the state.
"If we don't act before the end of session, we will leave 60,000 Georgia families stranded," said Rep. Calvin Smyre, (D-Columbus). "An economic recession, when decent paying jobs are hard to come by, is simply not the right time to turn our backs on Georgia families."