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Surge in use temporarily halts unemployment website; more changes to come

Posted at 8:22 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 22:16:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The surge in visitors to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development's jobs4tn website temporarily halted new applications, but officials say it offered the much needed break to process thousands of claims from over the weekend.

Much of the issue came from the hundreds of thousands of people who logged onto the site Sunday, attempting to make their weekly certifications.

Everyone claiming unemployment must complete weekly certifications in order to receive benefits. Even though it's weekly, most apply on Sunday where the typical wait time to get paid is within 48-72 hours later.

MORE: Jobs4TN app

Between the certifications and first-time claims, the website was overwhelmed and put applications on hold through Monday morning. The website may be accepting applications again, but some say the site is freezing up or kicking people off while they register.

Just before this past weekend, officials launched a queue system to help ease the burden on their current servers. In that same week, the department paid out $33 million to more than 117,000.

Officials say many were sent an email where you were given a number and a window of time to apply. The idea was by spreading out the number of visitors, people could avoid long wait times and unresponsive servers.

What officials didn’t anticipate was having to manage this group, with those trying to complete certifications and those gig workers applying for the first time ever. Often leading to wait times of 30 minutes in some cases or being booted off the page completely. Only to find yourself back in line, worse than when you began.

One solution currently in the works is to find a way to stagger the certification dates, while also urging people to log-on at non-peak hours (7 p.m.-7 a.m.) to apply.

“We’re looking at ways that we can stagger people who are certified and doing their weekly certifications. Spreading that out over three days so that not everyone is doing it on a Sunday, which really bogs down the system,” said Chris Cannon of the TN Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development.

Cannon says certifications can be done on any day of the week, but this way they can better manage when people are logging on. He says they’ve already purchased upgraded servers and are now waiting for the delivery.

The important message now is continue to apply, even if it takes time. Once you’re approved, Cannon says you will receive back pay from the day your claim was made. If you don’t apply, you don’t get paid either way.

For some, the question has been on how to apply if you didn’t work a traditional job or if you were furloughed. Click here for a step-by-step guide through the website.

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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.

Prevention

The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.