Anderson County man receives unemployment benefits after more than 3 months of waiting

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An Anderson County man got some good news about his unemployment compensation after more than three months of waiting to hear from the state.

Todd Peterson finally has some money in his bank account.

For a while Peterson had been unable to pay bills after losing his job as a customer service rep more than three months ago. His former employer claimed he had been fired for hanging up on people.

Nevertheless, beginning in June, Todd filed for state unemployment benefits believing he may be eligible for COVID-19 pandemic unemployment assistance.

He went online to update his status once a week, and every week the response was the same: In progress.

We wrote to the state two weeks ago explaining Todd’s situation. Since then, he received this notice: Decision made.

“They approved the claim so now I’m being paid,” Peterson said. “It is pretty awesome.”

Todd also received a letter describing how the decision with a state arbitrator came about.

“I just told them the whole story as it was, that my work computer was messing up and that was causing me to hang up on people,” he said.

The letter from the Tennessee Department of Labor says Peterson’s former employer “did not provide sufficient evidence to prove work-related misconduct.”

“The biggest thing to me and what I appreciated the most is after they reviewed everything, they were able to determine it wasn’t ‘termination,’ but ‘separation’,” Peterson said. “That meant, I wasn’t fired.”

Two weeks ago, we reported Todd, who is single, lives frugally in a one-bedroom apartment and watched TV on a 35-year-old set. With no full-time job, he works part-time and makes about $150 a week, enough to pay for food and his diabetes medication.

To help handle Todd’s unemployment claim and thousands of others since the pendemic began, the state has hired several hundred new employees in Nashville.

Updating his information weekly to those new workers, Todd said he was informed back in June that a decision in his case would be made by early July.

“Well, had it been approved in a timely manner, I would never have run into the issues that I ran into,” Todd said. “I could have kept current on everything. Four or five weeks isn’t bad. When it get to three months, it is ridiculous.”

Now with state and federal unemployment benefits deposited into his account, the financial pressure is off.

“It’s gotten me caught up on things,” Todd said. “It’s letting me breathe a little bit. Since I have a part-time job, I can keep ahead until I find a good full-time job again.”

In reporting stories like Peterson’s and others. we’ve discovered the state Labor Department gets behind with hard to resolve cases because they take time. His former employer claimed he should not be eligible for benefits. So when an unemployment claim is challenged, the state conducts a hearing and listens to both sides before reaching a decision.

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