Tennesseans want more done to keep past unemployment delays from haunting new extension

Posted at 8:38 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 21:56:05-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Questions over what happens when the latest federal unemployment extension expires have some concerns that the same backlog problems of the past will make their way to the future.

Eula Thomas is a single mother and on Monday, she contacted our offices to find help with what she suspected was fraudulent activity on her claim.

Thomas noticed much of her information had been changed and worried this could be why her claim had taken so long to process.

We helped Thomas get in contact with the state and the very next day, she got the call her family had been waiting on for almost four months.

She says it was the first time she had heard from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development to sort out the issue. Thomas was told to send a few extra documents and before long her claim would enter the queue for processing.

“The waiting game has been a process. I know they are trying to do the best that they can as quickly as they can, but there are so many people who are suffering while they’re waiting. Especially people with families,” Thomas said.

Thomas says she doesn’t talk finances with her children, but she knows they understand the pressure she’s under to find an answer.

She would take a new job, but again she’s concerned it may disqualify her from the money she’s already entitled to.

“If I receive a job offer today and accept tomorrow, do I get the back-pay I’ve been waiting on all these months,” Thomas said.

In all this waiting, we’ve seen unemployment extensions come and go. The latest extension signed into effect December 2020, expires on March 14th.

Thomas says the question is, will we see the same delays again? The last time we saw a new unemployment extension, Tennessee saw more than 25,000 duplicate claims. State officials explained misinformation lead claimants to reapply when they were supposed to certify their claims.

We asked if more can be done now to prevent these problems in the future and state officials sent us this statement:

“State unemployment departments have no control over the federal programs or their expiration dates. We are at the mercy of what Washington decides and when they decide it. States can never fully prepare for the unknown. If there are changes to the programs before the expiration of those programs, that give states time to prepare to implement those changes. If the programs lapse again, there is nothing the states can do until they receive implementation guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor.”

As for if claimants should expect much more clear instructions on what to do with their claims, we were later told to refer to the above statement:

House Democrats are currently working on an unemployment extension which would offer $400/week to run through August. A US House of Rep. Budget Committee passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. We could now see a vote from the House at the end of the is week.

The multi-trillion-dollar bill includes $245 billion for federal unemployment benefits and a $1,400 stimulus payment.