Unemployment claim backlog leads to long delays

Unemployment claim backlog leads to long delays for East Tennesseans

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"We should be able to talk to people. You shouldn't be hung up by a computer because you answered a wrong question," said Deborah Aaron. "We should be able to talk to people. You shouldn't be hung up by a computer because you answered a wrong question," said Deborah Aaron.
"You cannot speak to anyone; you can't get any information off the computer to see where your process is at. It's just been a mess," said Jennifer Lane of Maryville. "You cannot speak to anyone; you can't get any information off the computer to see where your process is at. It's just been a mess," said Jennifer Lane of Maryville.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

ROCKFORD (WATE) - Several people in East Tennessee have contacted 6 News saying they are having trouble getting their unemployment benefits processed. 

One viewer called us Thursday morning, saying she hadn't been able to get a call through to the unemployment office for nearly a month.  

Deborah Aaron said she was supposed to receive an unemployment check on January 10.  

She says she filed on December 19, but because she accidentally answered a wrong question on the certification, she had to call  the Unemployment Claims Center in Nashville to fix it.

The problem is nobody could take her call. The local and toll free numbers cannot handle additional calls.  

Aaron was first told she would get a call back to correct the problem within seven to 10 days, but hasn't heard back in around three weeks.  

"We should be able to talk to people. You shouldn't be hung up by a computer because you answered a wrong question," said Deborah Aaron.  

Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development spokesperson Jeff Hentschel says there's been a spike in unemployment claims recently.

The department received more than 11,000 new claims last week, compared to the weekly average in October of 4,072.

Hentschel says January is historically a busy month for unemployment claims, and more than one million calls are expected.

"A lot of people are demanding service and we just don't have enough people to cover that right now," said Hentschel.  

Others 6 News spoke with said they're frustrated with trying to get their benefits processed.

"You cannot speak to anyone; you can't get any information off the computer to see where your process is at. It's just been a mess," said Jennifer Lane of Maryville.  

Demand is also high because the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program ended on December 31, but continues to be debated in Congress. 

More than 18,000 Tennesseans received those now-expired federal benefits, and many are calling frequently to see if the program has been reinstated.  

The state doesn't have any physical unemployment offices anymore. Tennessee Career Centers help people look for jobs, but don't help with processing unemployment claims.  

The entire process is done online or through the phone.  

If anyone needs assistance with an existing claim, the department recommends filling out and submitting this form.  

Hentschel says that next year the online system will upgrade people to allow them to submit credit errors online, without the aid of a claims center representative.

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