State investigates unemployment systems as some say they’re unfairly disqualified from benefits

unemployment issue
Posted at 9:34 PM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-24 22:51:04-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Tennessee Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development is investigating a possible issue with work searches, as claimants say their work is not being saved.

No one is sure what’s causing the problem, but the fact is people are losing out on hundreds of dollars every week as a result of being disqualified.

Ted Foti first brought the issue to our attention on Monday and showed us how he had completed at least ten job searches just last week. When it came time to certify on Sunday, he checked to find he wasn’t credited for any work.

“It’s got 22 pages of job searches logged into their site and yet they're telling me I didn’t do that,” Foti said.

You’re required to complete at least three work searches to qualify for unemployment every week. Foti has been searching for and applying to jobs the same way since last fall. Up until two weeks ago, he was getting his regular payments.

Now he’s on two weeks without pay after being disqualified again this week for not completing enough job searches. Shortly after we spoke to Foti on Monday, several people reached out to say they had almost the same problem.

Hillari Siler is a mother of three and says she completed six work searches last week alone. She was disqualified the week before and thought maybe more work searches were the answer. On Sunday, she realized she had been disqualified again.

“I don’t understand what’s going on. That’s two weeks I’m disqualified and I did what I’m required to do,” Siler.

There’s been no change in how you fill out these work searches according to the TDLWD. Siler says she’s done everything the same way every week since she first applied last year, but now her family will have to make do without the money they count on.

“My fiance works and my income helps him a lot because we have three kids to take care of. It’s putting us not in a big burden, but I have to pay our bills in halves because I’m waiting for my checks,” Siler said.

The only thing that remotely resembles a cause to the problem involves the state’s unemployment vendors. They struggled on Sunday to adjust to the new unemployment benefits from the latest stimulus package. Many people reported seeing error messages on their screens that delayed certifications for hours.

State unemployment official Chris Cannon tells us they haven’t heard anyone mention problems with work searches before now. He says they are working to fix any potential issues.

For the time being, some say it’s better to enter your work searches manually instead of allowing the computer to populate each line for you. You can also appeal an agency decision by clicking here.

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more information as soon as it becomes available.