Thousands of Georgians are currently facing unemployment, unable to work during the coronavirus pandemic. These families depend on unemployment insurance (UI) to see them through the crisis. Among those out of work in Georgia are some of the 20,000 active Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries.

These individuals account for nearly $66 million in taxes and spend over $800 million annually. DACA recipients out of work due to the coronavirus, and in need of economic assistance, are likely eligible to receive UI benefits.

How UI works for immigrants

Georgia workers must meet all the following criteria to be eligible for UI:

  • Laid off: Only workers laid off by an employer due to no fault of their own are eligible. Qualifying events include government mandates that shut down non-essential businesses and other COVID-19 related work stoppages.
  • Legally residing in the U.S.: Those applying for UI must provide proof of lawful presence in the country. DACA recipients can provide their Employment Authorization Documents which lists an expiration date.
  • Searching for work: Under normal circumstances, applicants must actively search for work to remain eligible. Amidst the pandemic, the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) has waived this requirement for all cases filed March 14, 2020 and later.

DACA recipients who meet these requirements may apply for UI. Doing so will not only help these Georgia residents remain afloat during the pandemic but help fuel the state’s economy for the duration. DACA members in default are not eligible to receive these benefits, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is working with those individuals on temporary solutions throughout the pandemic.

Protections for all Georgia residents

USCIS considers UI an earned benefit, not a public one. Georgia’s employers’ payroll taxes to the federal government fund UI on behalf of their employees. Any DACA recipients with questions about their eligibility for UI or other benefits may find answers by contacting a local lawyer experienced with immigration and employment law.