Investigation launched into professional licensing issues in Georgia

It’s been over half a year since SOS launched a new online licensing platform, but some Georgians say they’re still struggling.

ATLANTA – Georgia Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, along with House Speaker Jon Burns, is launching a joint investigation into licensing issues within the Secretary of State’s Division of Professional Licensing Boards.

“The genesis of how this started was really just listening to voters and, unfortunately, voters’ complaints about not being able to get a good solution (from the secretary of state’s office),” Jones explained.

The Blue Ribbon Committee’s launch of the investigation comes after months of complaints from Georgians about delays in receiving the state’s new online licensing system, called GOALS (Georgia Online Application Licensing System), which launched last fall.

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Physiotherapists such as Blake Hampton were among the first and largest professional groups to be affected by the new system due to the date on which their renewal deadline fell.

“I hired a new graduate therapist in November and she was waiting to get her license and it took some time. So we were in a bind that we hired someone who basically can’t work because we’re waiting on the license,” Hampton explained.

On Tuesday, Dhara Shah, president of the Georgia chapter of the American Physical Therapist Association (APTA), said about 400 newly graduated physical therapists are still having trouble getting licensed.

The delays affected not only physical therapists, but also contractors, beauticians and occupational therapists. As every profession approaches its license renewal deadline this year, there is concern that the issues could continue to impact Georgia’s workforce.

“If they can’t work, they can’t earn wages for their families, and in many cases that becomes a very dire situation,” Jones said.

RELATED: Georgia professionals hit by licensing system issues, leaders ask for patience

In a letter to Georgia’s Sec. State leaders Brad Raffensberger wrote that “the current economy presents enough barriers to the ability of these critical businesses to keep their doors open,” adding, “They will not allow licensing to be another barrier .”

Just hours after the announcement, Raffensperger thanked the General Assembly for joining the effort to improve licensing.

“I want to thank Speaker Burns and Lieutenant Governor Jones for enlisting their help to improve the licensing process for professionals across Georgia,” Raffensperger said. “Together, we can build on the recommendations of my GA WORKS Licensing Commission and get these reforms over the finish line. We will cut red tape for thousands across the state.”

Lieutenant Governor Jones said the investigation was not in response to the State Department’s efforts.

“I’ll be honest with you, none of this came from them. Quite frankly, when we tried to resolve these individuals’ issues and reached out to the Secretary of State’s office, we had problems,” Jones said.

The leaders said the committee would be tasked with identifying the causes of the difficulties, finding possible solutions and drawing up a list of recommendations.

“The main goal is to figure out why we have such a delay and look at how we can streamline it better and also be a little more customer friendly,” Jones said.