NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A new way to navigate through the Tennessee unemployment website, has officials hoping it could take some of the pressure off their servers.
Tennessee has already paid out more than $30 million in unemployment benefits this week to over 100,000 people, but say they’re still working to handle the hundreds of thousands waiting.
In the past three weeks, more than 200,000 Tennesseans have applied for unemployment.
Now imagine for a moment, these are the very same servers that typically get around 15,000 claims in that same amount of time.
Chris Cannon of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development says it for that reason, the site will now feature a queue system.
Rather than taking the chance of applying and bogging down a server, every person who registers will get a number and an email telling them when they are scheduled to apply.
“That way we limit the number of people on our system during peak hours,” said Cannon.
He says the system has been overwhelmed, especially with the influx of gig workers, who in the past were not eligible for these benefits.
“They’re not typically eligible for unemployment. So the system is not at all geared towards them because they would never of had a reason to go to the system. The CARES Act changed all of that,” said Cannon, referring to the federal stimulus bill guaranteeing more Americans unemployment benefits.
The stress on these servers has turned what should have been a 30 minute registration, into a week of frustration for people like Michael Custer of Nashville.
Custer is a ride-share driver and says each time uploaded his prior work experience, the system would erase his information. By late Wednesday, he finally managed to get the information into the system, he was sent a note saying “independent contractors, are not able to qualify for unemployment.”
The note goes on to say while they understand that the CARES Act “makes provisions in it to assist the self employed in qualifying for federally expanded unemployment benefits. We are still in the process of implementing FPUA (Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) here in TN.”
Cannon says this is simply part of the reprogramming being done to the entire system. So for gig workers who get this message, he says “it doesn’t mean you’re denied. It just means your claim will sit in a bucket for a while.”
Once they get the proper guidance and money from the federal government, Cannon says the plan is to “go back to scoop up all those claims and start paying them out as soon as possible.”
For now, Cannon says they’re already expanding their servers to meet demand.
A process that could take time, many don’t have to spare.
“If the gig worker thing doesn’t integrate well into the process, then maybe they have to build a new one real quick,” said Custer.
Cannon says you shouldn’t wait to apply.
If you’re running into issues, try logging on between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., when there’s less traffic to their servers.
For those who have already registered, Cannon says you should remember to make your weekly certifications through the website. Unless you update the state weekly on if you’ve received any income, your unemployment benefits may be put on hold.
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COUNTY-BY-COUNTY CASES IN TENNESSEE
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:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Or at least two of the following symptoms:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- 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.
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.