Legislators want to avoid delays when processing unemployment money from latest stimulus bill

Posted at 6:39 PM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 19:39:35-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee legislators want the state to prepare for how to process unemployment money granted by a new stimulus bill.

This new bill is expected to extend both the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) funds to March 14. These programs will pay $300 each week. Non-traditional or gig workers are also eligible for an extra $100 if they also worked a traditional job where you get a W-2.

For PEUC, this is on top of whatever state unemployment benefits you may still be eligible for through the state. That could be a total of $575 each week when you add the maximum state benefits of $275. State unemployment officials say it’s their understanding this is how we can expect the money to be processed.

While this mirrors what we’ve seen in the past, State Rep. John Ray Clemmons says the last thing we want is a repeat of the same issues.

“The real trick now is with any unemployment assistance or any of these funds, they’re going through the state. So the question now is how well does the state handle these funds that have been appropriated by the federal government and how quickly are they going to get Tennessee families,” Clemmons said.

Chris Cannon works for the Tennessee Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development and says it’s too early to speculate on how long we can expect the process to take.

He does however say their current systems may not have to adjust if this money is sent through the same channels as the programs already in place. Hopefully, that means no delays, except for one.

“People who have rolled off and if there’s a new program that comes up, they would have to reapply and go through that process again,” Cannon said.

Many of you will likely have to reapply and we all know how that went the first time. States are now also asked to better scrutinize each claim to curb identity theft. Cannon says this has not been a widespread issue in Tennessee, but other states may not have been as fortunate.

That said last month at this time, more than 41,000 Tennesseeans had pending claims through the PEUC program. That accounted for more than a third of those who applied for the program. A program meant to be a 13-week extension for traditional unemployment.

Cannon said the wait was necessary to review each claim manually. The state has received more than $2 million of federal funding to date to combat fraud claims and the new stimulus bill offers money to do the same.

The PEUC and PUA are both set to expire on Dec. 26. The new stimulus money would be available shortly after and this time is not retroactive.