Tennessee running out of unemployment funds

Tennessee running out of unemployment funds


6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Another sobering sign for the U.S. economy came Friday when the nation's unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent.

That's worse than analysts were predicting and the highest unemployment rate since 1983.

In response, President Obama on Friday signed into law an extension of jobless benefits for millions of Americans. The new bill gives an extra 14 weeks of benefits to all 50 states.

In states like Tennessee, where unemployment is above 8.5 percent, those benefits will be extended even longer to 20 weeks. That gives people like Susan Merrifield a little more time to find a job.

Merrifield, like many in Tennessee, has the skills but is finding that a good paying job is beyond hard to get.

"My resume speaks for itself. I have nine years of sales experience, I was making six figures for the last four years," said Merrifield.

The job loss has been a blow to Merrifield's ego after climbing AT&T's corporate ladder for years. Unemployed almost two months now, she's already burned through half her savings.

But Merrifield says she is not jumping to sign up for unemployment checks.

"I've never have in the 32 years I have been alive, but if it's something I have to do I'm not going to turn away the money to make sure I can continue to take care of my family," said Merrifield.

If economists are right, Merrifield may have no choice but to accept government help in the long term.

"Large numbers of people coming out of unemployment is never a one year problem, it's almost always a three year problem," said UT economics professor Bill Fox. 

That raises the question: Will the state run out of money to keep the jobless afloat?

"Right now it's close to negative," said Fox.

Fox isn't sugar coating the reality. Tennessee's funds are drying up and they could be gone as early as January. Once they're depleted, the burden will fall on the federal government.

The worry then is that the checks for Tennesseans will stop rolling in.

Fox says he's confident that won't happen.  

Tennessee's unemployment rate for October has not been released yet, but economists predict it could be dangerously close to 11 percent.

If you need to sign up for unemployment benefits. You can call  1-877-813-0950.


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