NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -We’re still hearing from many Tennesseans having issues getting any answers from the TN Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

“Going from making $1,100 to $1,200 a week to not having anything, is just crazy,” Nashville resident Tarris Lewis said. 

Lewis enjoyed working hard in the construction business. 

“Every day, I’d wake up at 5:00 am and be at work at 6:00. I’d be the first one there. Opening doors you know, I’d be the last one to leave. I’m always doing something,” Lewis said. 

But like many, COVID-19 and the economic crisis, left him with no job and no money. He says he applied for unemployment 11 weeks ago and hasn’t heard a thing. He bakes and sells cheesecakes, just to get some money in his pocket. 

“I’ve got 6 kids. You know, ages from 6 to 15. And not to mention, I got two kids who are autistic. So trying to work with that cause they can’t go to therapy sessions right now,” Lewis said. 

Several Tennesseans reached out to us saying they’ve waited 8, 9 or 10 weeks for their claims. Rep. Gloria Johnson has received similar calls and emails from people waiting to hear back from the Department of Labor. 

“They keep saying ‘Oh well we got this new phone system. Nobody has to wait more than 5 minutes. THAT’S A LIE! You still cannot get through on the phone!! I talked to people today who are not able to get through on the phone,” Rep. Johnson said.

News 4 asked the Department of Labor & Workforce Development several questions about the claims process. When it comes to the amount of pending claims they currently have, the Department says there are fewer than 25,000 claims pending a determination. 

This figure, the state says, takes into account the 28,692 claims filed for the week ending May 16. The Department added that the week of May 11, there were 51,000 pending claims. In addition, the Department says they are still getting roughly 26,000 new claims each week and many of those claims add to the pending count because even the fastest claims typically don’t process within 7 days. 

As for how many call agents currently on staff, the Department of Labor says typically there are approximately 400 call agents covering the phones, on various schedules, seven days a week. 

When it comes to adjudicators, a department spokesperson tells News 4 that they are in the process of training new adjudicators and the number will go from 40 to 70 this coming week. They say they added 50 new claims agents this week and are also adding 30 people to appeals to add more capacity in making decisions on contested claims. 

The Department of Labor says they are in the process of training the 30 new adjudicators that will come in line next week.  

The number of claims the department works on each day varies greatly from day to day because of the nature of the unemployment system. Thousands of claims auto-approve through the system. Other claims can be processed after a staff member resolves a small issues, while others can take hours and a team of people to resolve because of multiple, complicated issues. 

News 4 also wanted to know is there a minimum requirement when it comes to how many claims are processed each day or how many are handled. 

The Department replied with the addition of three new federal programs, along with Tennessee Unemployment Compensation, the division works to process as many claims as possible each day and expects each employee to be as expedient and productive as possible considering the unprecedented workload they currently face each day.  

As for Lewis’s claim, the Department said he filed his claim under Disaster Unemployment Assistance, which was an error. An adjudicator spoke with Lewis this afternoon, resolved his issue and approved his claim. He should have his payment within 48 to 72 hours. 

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