NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Over 1 million. That’s the surge in unemployment claims the Department of Labor has had to juggle since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“We are hard after trying to get this lassoed and trying to make it better for the people of Tennessee,” Labor and Workforce Commissioner Jeff McCord said.
Now the unemployment issues are making the way from the unemployment office to the State Capitol.
“It’s been infuriating to hear from thousands of people across the state of Tennessee who I’ve had the honor over the last 10 months and to continue to see the same type of problems,” State Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, said.
Franklin resident Nicholas Shubert’s story unfortunately isn’t unique, waiting to get answers about his pending unemployment benefits.
Clemmons recently wrote legislation calling for major change at the Department of Labor.
“This isn’t some handout. This is their own money and they deserve to get that money and they deserve to get it in a timely manner,” Clemmons said.
House Bill 868 focuses on increasing state unemployment weekly payments, strengthening the employment trust fund and ensuring claims are processed in a timely manner.
News4 has highlighted story after story of people dealing with unemployment processing issues. Clemmons said his office was flooded with complaints as well.
“Obviously for the couple of weeks, you saw really high numbers of people for unemployment, so you’re necessarily going to have a few delays,” Clemmons said. Here we are 10 months later and we’re still having the same type of delays. They haven’t done anything to improve the system to make it more efficient or upgrade the system.”
The Department of Labor said outside factors are leading to the delays, like fraud, invalid claims or duplicate applications.
McCord said he knows people are tired and frustrated but stands by the work of his team and staff.
“We’ve implemented five additional programs from the federal government for their rules and they have to run at the same time,” McCord said. “So, we have that complexity. Let me assure you, we care.”
The Department of Labor said so far there have been around 70,500 legislative tickets filed since March 2020. Currently the department has a team working on 1,400 tickets.