Coronavirus has sickened hundreds of thousands people and killed thousands more in Georgia. (Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Georgia House Democratic lawmakers pressed Gov. Brian Kemp Wednesday to clear the state’s backlog of unprocessed unemployment claims and reimpose a 60-day halt to evictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to the governor, members of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus highlighted frequent complaints from constituents that their unemployment claims have not been processed after long delays while tens of thousands of Georgians face “an imminent eviction crisis.”

Kemp has steadily allowed businesses, schools and other institutions in Georgia to reopen since late April with certain safety measures in place, an approach the House Democrats’ letter faults as too hands-off to address economic insecurity issues across the state.

“The sober reality is that there is no market-based or voluntary response that will adequately stem the tide of economic loss, displacement and profound suffering resulting from the pandemic,” the letter says.

The letter urges Kemp to authorize a one-time preliminary grant of all unemployment claims that have been pending for 30 days or more, boost staffing at the state Department of Labor to process the claims backlog faster and implement a review period for claims after approval.

It also recommends Kemp immediately renew a statewide 60-day pause on evictions after a previous moratorium expired in July, and to use emergency aid and grant funds to increase housing and rental assistance for Georgians struggling to make monthly payments.

“Particularly now that federal … unemployment payments have expired, thousands of Georgians are facing severe and immediate economic instability,” the letter says. “Current trends in unemployment and eviction are an immediate crisis of humanity that will have ripple effects well into Georgia’s future.”

Kemp has frequently sought to cast the coronavirus pandemic as both a major public-health and economic crisis, advancing policies aimed at allowing businesses to recover as much as possible back to normal while imposing social distancing and cleanliness requirements to curb the virus’ spread.

He has faced months of criticism for not issuing a statewide mask mandate per recommendations from health experts and recent White House coronavirus task force reports. The letter from Democratic lawmakers also called on him to require masks.

On Tuesday, Kemp called on Georgians to wash hands, keep distance, follow sanitization precautions and voluntarily wear masks.

“Do it for your family and friends, do it for your faith community, or do it for college football,” Kemp said. “No matter your reason, hunker down, stay focused and do four things for fall.”