TN halts plan to end child allowances for unemployed - WSMV Channel 4

TN halts plan to end child allowances for unemployed

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A showdown over a new state law might end up costing thousands of Tennesseans their unemployment benefits, as the state is facing an impossible choice: either defy the law or put families at risk.

The new law that had been set to take effect Monday is meant to cut payments to unemployment recipients who have children.

For now, the state pays the first 26 weeks of benefits, then the federal government pays an extra 37 weeks. But that money comes with strings attached. Namely, states can't cut benefits.

"To find out, first of all, that the Republican Party was OK taking money away from children when their parents are unemployed was unbelievable and heartless," said State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville.

People on unemployment who have children get an extra $15 a week per child, but state lawmakers passed a bill to eliminate that extra money.

The new law had been primed to go into effect Monday, but the Tennessee Department of Labor decided to hold off.

"What they are doing to the people of this state is awful," Jones said.

According to federal law, if states make certain cuts to it unemployment benefits, they risk losing federal benefits entirely.

As of January, around 30,000 in Tennessee were receiving those federal benefits.

The Department of Labor was all ready to enact the new law, even notifying people on the state website that the money was going away.

However, Director of Benefit Operations Mark Stiles sent out an email Friday, letting people know that they wouldn't be cutting these benefits until the end of the year.

Democratic state lawmakers say it appears the Department of Labor is poised to break its own law to preserve those benefits.

"Where did these people go to school to learn how to run government like this?" Jones said.

The Tennessee Department of Labor is now seeking guidance from the federal government about the impact of removing these dependent benefits.

Until they make a decision, the benefits stay.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor said the benefits are still active in Tennessee, but the case remains under review.

Those who worked on the unemployment legislation dispute the Democrats' claims. They told Channel 4 News they included language in the bill provision to nullify any provision that would jeopardize federal funding.

The sponsor of the Tennessee bill, State Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, puts the blame on the federal government, saying he's "disappointed federal government once again is hindering Tennessee's ability to take the necessary steps to put our financial house in order."

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