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State blames budget cuts for longer refund wait
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Where’s your check?
To check the status of your return, call 404-417-4480 or go to the Department of Revenue’s Web site: You’ll need to know the Social Security number on the return and the whole dollar amount of your anticipated refund.

After waiting for nearly three months, Ethel Roberto finally received her state tax return over the weekend.

Roberto, an 80-year-old Gainesville resident, is one of thousands of Georgia residents who have had to endure a longer-than-normal waiting period to receive their 2008 tax returns from the state’s department of revenue.

Roberto said she thought she was avoiding the rush when she filed her tax return on March 21 at the Senior Life Center in Gainesville. When the refund check did not come, she tried calling the Department of Revenue — a few times.

“All I got was a recorded message saying it should be sent out within six to 10 weeks,” Roberto said. “That went way over the line, so I figured, well, we’ll get it, just sit back and wait.”

Still waiting are approximately 430,000 Georgia residents whose tax returns had not been processed by Friday, according to a statement released by the Department of Revenue.

A pair of news releases from the agency blames the backlog on budget cuts. A June 10 news release says the Department of Revenue, dealing with a $12 million reduction in funding, cut 155 employees who processed tax returns.

But on Friday, the department announced that it added temporary staff to help reduce the backlog. Last week, the department said it added 30 temporary employees and planned to add another 70 temporary employees to process tax returns this week.

The temporary employees are former Department of Revenue workers who are highly proficient in processing returns, according to a department spokesman, who added that the state is current on processing returns filed electronically.

Still, residents who filed paper returns before April 10 may not get their state refund check anytime soon. The department says those refunds may not come until October. And refunds from paper returns filed after April 10 may not be returned to residents until December, according to the release.

After months of waiting, the refund check that finally hit Roberto’s mailbox on Saturday will likely go toward an oil change and medical bills, she said.

Roberto says she probably would have gotten her oil changed without the return, but the extra cash will make the expense a little easier to endure. She said she hopes other Georgia residents waiting on their returns will soon have similar luck.

“Every little bit helps. To some people, it may have been a drop in the bucket, but to others it can mean a lot,” she said.