New changes, same problems as certifications stall Tennessee’s unemployment site for hours

Posted at 6:19 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 14:39:57-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the second consecutive week, the state unemployment site was unresponsive for those attempting to make their weekly certifications.

This comes after several changes to the site including a virtual queue system and the staggering of certifications days, with the hope of easing the burden on their already overwhelmed network servers. By 5 p.m. Monday, the certification site appeared to be back online.

State officials tell us they were in the process of sorting through and pay out thousands of claims, which meant putting a halt to everything else. At last count, more than 300,000 people had applied for unemployment benefits in the last month.

The certification process which everyone has to do to get paid, was supposed to be much simpler this week as people were designated to certify on specific days.

Rather than everyone certifying on Sunday, your day was determined by the last digit of your social security number. (0-3 on Sunday, 4-6 on Monday and 7-9 on Tuesday)

You can also certify on Wednesday through Saturday if you’ve missed your designated day. You should then expect to be paid between 48 and 72 hours later.

Last Wednesday, some Tennesseans began seeing the $600 in federal unemployment relief deposited to their accounts along with their state benefits.

When we talked with Jason Carmon about his experience navigating this week versus last, he says the change made things simpler.

Although that’s compared to before where he may have been one of 20,000 people in a queue, waiting to log on.

“I could tell the difference yesterday getting my claim processed. It wasn’t quick, but it was definitely better than the last time,” said Carmon.

Carmon has received one payment since applying back on March 29. He works in the service industry and says half of his colleagues have received either one payment or none at all.

They’ve tried calling and sending their emails, but according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, they’ve been inundated with nearly 30,000 phone calls a day.

The closest you may get to any correspondence is through a small chat window on the website, that on Monday acknowledged the frustration mounting against the often unresponsive pages.

“I feel like the state is adopting the policy of it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission in a sense that they were not proactive,” said Carmon.

What frustrates Carmon isn’t having to go through all this, it’s knowing there are some who do and yet haven’t seen a dime.

“People who are five or six weeks without a paycheck that are down to the last couple of dollars, they are in crisis as well and I feel like the state has done a very poor job of addressing their needs,” said Carmon.

Whatever changes are made, Carmon says nothing compares to hearing from the state themselves. We contacted state officials to address the delay Monday. They responded with the following:

“Currently in Tennessee, approximately 75,000 self-employed individuals have submitted unemployment applications. Once the state has the ability to process Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), those claims will begin to cycle through system for approval.Other applications that are not PUA-related are also waiting for approval. These applications have raised issues, as many claims do during a typical month, and they need the attention of an employee before they can proceed through the system.”