Questions remain for nearly 200,000 Tennesseans waiting on jobless claims


A woman looks at signs at a store closed due to COVID-19 in Niles, Ill., Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There remain a lot of Tennesseans who are not getting unemployment benefits.

While more than 300,000 are getting the money, nearly 200,000 are not.

Every top Tennessee lawmaker from Governor Bill Lee on down say they have been getting hundreds of calls or emails from people waiting for unemployment benefits.

Many have called television stations.

“On March 18th, I filed my claim,” says Candace Richardson who was laid off because of COVID-19 precautions from her job as a server at a Dickson County restaurant.

Like several of the nearly 200,000 Tennesseans we have talked to awaiting unemployment benefits, the young woman thought she had done something wrong in filing.

Her phone call to the Tennessee labor department said otherwise.

“I kept being told to be patient,” Richardson told WKRN-TV. “I got my card in the mail to receive money on it, like a month after I filed my claims. They said the money would be on there in three or four days.”

It wasn’t.

Instead, the laid off server told us about rent that’s due along with a car needing repairs and new tags, so she turned elsewhere.

“Luckily I got food stamps,” said Richardson. “If I had not gotten that, I don’t know how I would be eating right now. Lucky I got approved for that.”

The process of losing a job and not being among the 300,000 Tennesseans getting unemployment sometimes seems too much.

“I was getting to the point where I was ready to give up. It’s kind of emotional,” she said, trying to hold back tears. “I don’t quite understand why I have not received mine and a lot of other people have (theirs). I thought it was me, and I was doing something wrong.”

Nearly 200,000 people are asking the same questions.

Luckily, Richardson goes back to work next week, but she’ll still be owed weeks  of unemployment.

The labor department says there’s been system upgrades to handle the unemployment load and hundreds of workers retrained to help with the claims.  

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