Tennesseans' wait for unemployment benefits nearly longest - WSMV News 4

Tennesseans' wait for unemployment benefits nearly longest in the country

Posted: Updated:
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Tennessee is ranked one of the worst states in the country when it comes to making benefit payments in a timely manner. In fact, the Volunteer State is only ahead of two other states when it comes to timeliness of payments.

Tara Cook says she's never seen the state's unemployment benefits system this bad. And she would know. Her family owns an asphalt company in Estill Springs. Each year, she says she has to lay off construction workers during the winter, then she hires them back in the spring. She says her company has been doing that for 40 years.

During the time when her employees are not working, she wants to make sure they get their unemployment checks. This year, though, she told the Channel 4 I-Team she hadn't had much luck with that until we got involved.

Cook says only one of the 19 employees she laid off in December has received all of his permanent unemployment benefits in the weeks that have followed.

For months, the Channel 4 I-Team has been investigating delays and the backlog in the state's unemployment benefits system. We hear from frustrated jobseekers every day who tell us they try relentlessly to get through to file an unemployment claim both online and by phone with no luck.

Others tell us they're waiting far too long to get approved or paid.

"We've paid in about $45,000 last year alone in unemployment benefits because we are prepared. They prepare us to lay off our guys and have that money available, so that money is sitting somewhere because I have paid it in," said Cook.

According to figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, Tennessee is only ahead of Massachusetts and Florida when it comes to timeliness of payments in less than 21 days.

Based on the latest numbers, 31 percent of claimants aren't paid within 21 days. By comparison, only five percent of claimants in Alabama are waiting for checks beyond 21 days.

The national average shows only 14 percent of claims were left outstanding beyond that 21 day threshold.

State Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, who sits on a senate committee that deals with unemployment issues, says that has to change.

"We're Tennessee. We like being at the top of the stack, not the bottom of the stack. And we're talking about caring for the most vulnerable people," Green said. "I think what we're going to do is talk with the other members of the committee and see if we need to step in to help."

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development would not talk with the Channel 4 I-Team on-camera for this story, but they told us by email those who are not paid within 21 days tend to have claims with issues that have yet to be resolved. We're told those cases are taking anywhere from six to nine weeks on average to reach decision.

Since the Channel 4 I-Team got involved with her complaint, Cook says she was told by the state the day our story was set to air that all 19 of her workers should receive all of their unemployment benefits by next week.

The Channel 4 I-Team has repeatedly asked the state labor department why Tennessee seems to be taking longer than almost every state in the country to make initial payments to jobseekers, but they will only say planned upgrades to the system will help alleviate delays.

However, in the past, the state has told us they can get as many as 20,000 calls a day into the claims center. Ideally, they would like to hire more people to answer those calls, but the state says they don't have the federal funding to do that.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

  • Tennesseans' wait for unemployment benefits nearly longest in the countryMore>>

  • Recent HeadlinesMore>>

  • Murfreesboro groups spread messages of love ahead of planned white supremacy rally

    Murfreesboro groups spread messages of love ahead of planned white supremacy rally

    Saturday, October 21 2017 11:01 PM EDT2017-10-22 03:01:05 GMT

    One week from today, League of the South -- a white supremacy group -- plans a White Lives Matter rally in downtown Murfreesboro. Several counter protests are in the works. Local faith based groups and community organizers say they want to promote a positive message of love and inclusion. 

    More >>

    One week from today, League of the South -- a white supremacy group -- plans a White Lives Matter rally in downtown Murfreesboro. Several counter protests are in the works. Local faith based groups and community organizers say they want to promote a positive message of love and inclusion. 

    More >>
  • Rep. Jim Cooper talks legislation to help DEA fight against opioids

    Rep. Jim Cooper talks legislation to help DEA fight against opioids

    Saturday, October 21 2017 10:50 PM EDT2017-10-22 02:50:24 GMT

    Tennessee lawmaker speaks about his crusade to give law enforcement the power it needs in its fight against drugs. Congressman Jim Cooper is trying to right the wrong of legislation. The DEA claims prevents them from freezing, and red flagging large shipments of opioids.

    More >>

    Tennessee lawmaker speaks about his crusade to give law enforcement the power it needs in its fight against drugs. Congressman Jim Cooper is trying to right the wrong of legislation. The DEA claims prevents them from freezing, and red flagging large shipments of opioids.

    More >>
  • Multiple people wounded during shooting at Edgehill Homes

    Multiple people wounded during shooting at Edgehill Homes

    Saturday, October 21 2017 9:23 PM EDT2017-10-22 01:23:05 GMT
    (WSMV)(WSMV)

    Police responded to a shooting at the Edgehill Homes apartment complex near 12 Ave South around 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Four male teens were non-critically injured after exchanging gunfire with other individuals in a car. It is unknown at this time how many people were in the car, and if any were injured.

    More >>

    Police responded to a shooting at the Edgehill Homes apartment complex near 12 Ave South around 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Four male teens were non-critically injured after exchanging gunfire with other individuals in a car. It is unknown at this time how many people were in the car, and if any were injured.

    More >>
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Chicago freezer death was a 'sad' accident, police chief says

    Chicago freezer death was a 'sad' accident, police chief says

    Saturday, October 21 2017 8:12 AM EDT2017-10-21 12:12:40 GMT

    Authorities have closed the investigation into the death of a young Chicago woman whose body was found in a hotel's walk-in freezer, saying it was accidental and there was no reason to suspect foul play.

    More >>

    Authorities have closed the investigation into the death of a young Chicago woman whose body was found in a hotel's walk-in freezer, saying it was accidental and there was no reason to suspect foul play.

    More >>
  • Police: Son shoots, kills mom’s friend for flirting with imaginary girlfriend

    Police: Son shoots, kills mom’s friend for flirting with imaginary girlfriend

    Thursday, October 19 2017 12:49 PM EDT2017-10-19 16:49:32 GMT
    (Photo: Pasco County Sheriff's Office)(Photo: Pasco County Sheriff's Office)

    New body cam footage has been released which shows the moments after a Florida man shot and killed his mother’s friend for flirting with his imaginary girlfriend.

    More >>

    New body cam footage has been released which shows the moments after a Florida man shot and killed his mother’s friend for flirting with his imaginary girlfriend.

    More >>
  • Thong jeans are just the latest weird fashion trend

    Thong jeans are just the latest weird fashion trend

    Friday, October 20 2017 11:27 PM EDT2017-10-21 03:27:11 GMT
    A model display creation of "thibaut" by Japanese designer Meiko Ban during the 2018 Spring/Summer Collection at the Tokyo Fashion Week in Tokyo, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)A model display creation of "thibaut" by Japanese designer Meiko Ban during the 2018 Spring/Summer Collection at the Tokyo Fashion Week in Tokyo, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

    Thong jeans. (Theans? Jongs? Thonjeangs?) Whatever you decided to call them, they’re weird and the internet is going crazy.

    More >>

    Thong jeans. (Theans? Jongs? Thonjeangs?) Whatever you decided to call them, they’re weird and the internet is going crazy.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly
WSMV
Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2017, WSMV; Nashville, TN. (A Meredith Corporation Station) . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.