NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - “I have nothing, actually. We’ve pawned just to get by. We’ve sold stuff, just to keep the lights on,” Tony Hardin said. 

The last few months for Tony Hardin and his wife, Sue Lucio, have been draining. Especially when it comes to getting a response from the Department of Labor. 

“Every time we call or go on the chat we get kicked off. We sit there for an hour, put on hold in the chat just to start back over in the queue,” Hardin said.

While they wait for assistance, Hardin’s wife is looking for a job, but that’s a challenge too. 

“She tries every day to look for work, and as well as I do. But it’s kind of hard when you don’t got gas to go,” Hardin said. 

The Department of Labor says they’ve noticed a decline in unemployment claims since the COVID-19 began. So far, the Department of Labor says they have paid over 300,000 claims and have given out over $288 million in payments. 

“Almost 99.8 percent from March have been processed. But, there’s still a few hundred. And they are working those claims from the oldest,” Cannon said. 

Chris Cannon of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development says for the week ending June 6th, just over 21,000 new claims were filed. 

But the data also shows Northern Middle Tennessee continues to see some of the highest numbers across the state. It’s why Cannon says the department is training workers around the clock.  

“We’re continually training call agents to move up to the different levels of adjudicators so they can actually make decisions on claims. And we’re continually adding more adjudicators so we can process more of those claims and make those decisions,” Cannon said.  

For Hardin, he just hopes one of those agents to call them back next.  

“You have to take care of kids and rent. And you don’t have money for rent. You’re behind. It’s tough.”

The Department also says the help from the Federal Government is helping to pay the benefits, allowing the Unemployment Trust fund to stay afloat.  

Last month, state leaders decided to tap into the Coronavirus relief fund to use Federal dollars to bolster the Tennessee Unemployment Trust Fund,” Cannon said.  This way they’re paying all the TN unemployment compensation with that federal money that was sent to the state and not taking any money out of the trust fund, so that balance can stay above a billion dollars and won’t impact employer taxes in the state.” 

The Department added that the number of calls has dropped dramatically. They believe that is probably due to people receiving their benefits. They also believe that is due to the new voice mail system, which allows claimants to leave messages if they are unable to reach the department. 

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