NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Every week, Tennessee sees an unprecedented amount of people filing for unemployment.
A number that Commissioner Jeff McCord with the Department of Labor & Workforce development says they have never seen or experienced before.
“The number of people calling is, in an excess some days, over 100,000 people. And, we’ve done some things to proactively message so that we can try to answer calls before the calls happen and we feel like we’ve made some system improvements,” Jeff McCord said.
Nearly 43,800 new unemployment claims were filed last week in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce.
In the last seven weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, just under 325,000 new unemployment claims were filed in the state. This number does not take into account any brand new claims or people who did not make a weekly certification.
One thing the Department says that they have done is expand their capacity. They’ve also beefed up their staff, transferring employees from the American Job Center into their unemployment department.
“Roughly 20 people to over 350 people," Commissioner McCord said. "We still are struggling with the volume that we’re getting. So one of the things we say.one of the best methods to submit a customer service ticket through the website and we work those tickets every single day."
But many Tennesseans, like Chris Warren, are not seeing that. Every time he calls or emails the Department about his claim, he does not get far, and he applied weeks ago.
“Every person I’ve talked to I’ve get different something they can and can’t do. None of them, none of them can access the file. But then you get a different story from each one about what to do, Lebanon resident Chris Warren said.
For several weeks, News 4 has reported on Tennesseans having issues filing for unemployment. Other say they have waited for their benefits, only for it not to come.
News 4 asked Commissioner McCord if the employees transferred from the American Job Center are trained to handle some of the issues claimants have. Commissioner said they are and are getting better everyday with experience.
News 4 also asked Commissioner McCord about the state’s unemployment trust fund. This week, a Washington D.C. research group called The Tax Foundation released their findings, saying that the state’s fund is close to running out of money within the next three months.
“We read that trust fund each month. And so, the next reading, which will count for liabilities, accruals, revenue will be out May 15th. It will give us a much better idea,” Commissioner McCord.
News 4 has also received calls from residents who tell us that they have not received their unemployment benefits, but their coworkers have.
“Well a lot of that depends on the claim. Some claims are easier to process. Some claims have mistakes in them and are more complicated to work through,” McCord said.
Prior to the pandemic, McCord said an upgrade was not needed.
“Not necessarily in need of an upgrade with the volumes that we’ve had, but it very quickly it became so. So we did one upgrade with our vendor and just did another. So we’ve had a week of very good performance,” McCord said.
McCord says he understands thousands of people are frustrated but wants to reassure Tennesseans they are getting to claimants as fast as they can.
“We do a lot of town halls at night with the General Assembly and so, I hear folks,” Commissioner McCord said. We hear what they’re struggling with. We just want you to know that we are hard after it.”