NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Issues with unemployment benefits have been an ongoing problem News 4 followed for months, but one couple truly has had difficulty trying to get answers.
The last year has been like walking through a maze for Phil and Dawn Fenn, trying to navigate the weeds and brush of getting their issues resolved at the State Department of Labor.
“It would begin, and it would slow for a while until we hit another roadblock,” Phill Fenn said. “And we never knew who created the block!” Dawn Fenn added.
The Fenn’s first reached out to News4 in May after seeing our original report about a woman battling cancer who appealed her unemployment denials 28 times. Like Valarie Dalton, Phil Fenn has health issues and qualified for federal unemployment assistance because of the pandemic.
“It was extremely concerning to me, given my age at the time. And my heart condition,” Fenn said.
Fenn has a job at Lowe’s but knew his life would be at risk if he returned. Under Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order 15, Fenn qualified for benefits since a medical professional directed him to stay home.
He started getting unemployment benefits last march, but by December 2020, the Fenns say that the funds suddenly stopped. But then, they got bad news.
“He got a phone call from some adjudicator that said everything that everyone has ever told you have been 100 percent wrong...I’m the only person that knows, and you need to pay back everything that you got in 2020,” Fenn said.
But remember, under the Executive Order, Fenn qualified!
So the couple appealed and had a hearing. In July, they were given a disqualifying letter, saying they don’t meet the requirements for unemployment benefits, and nowhere in the letter did it mention the Governor’s Executive Order.
“Right now, the frustration is you don’t know who’s accountable for the decisions that are made that are wrong,” Fenn said.
News 4 contacted the department of labor, asking why the Executive Order was not listed.
They wouldn’t speak with us on camera but did issue the following statement regarding Phil Fenn’s claim:
Dawn and Phil Fenn did finally get the retroactive payments.
“They had withheld monies from December of 2020 to July 3rd of 2021. They had withheld those, and we got those. There were two amounts, one in excess of $5,000. And one, just over $7,300.00,” Fenn said.
But the hearings continue. In their most recent hearing this month with the Department of Labor, the State notified the Fenn’s that they overcharged them, and now they owe the State $210.00
“So, there was the initial sense of finally. But then the quick thing that lands on your shoulder that says hey, don’t be too overly optimistic yet,” Fenn said.
While they’re still going through the maze, one thing they learned from all of this is never to give up.
“If you get a denial, no matter how high you’ve gone up the chain…Please don’t quit. Keep all of your documents in order. Keep all of your transcripts. Date them, keep all of your paperwork in order,” Dawn Fenn said.
Since the recent letter mentioned the overpayment was not their fault, the Fenn’s also plan on beginning another process of requesting a waiver of payment.