Campbell County bus drivers still awaiting unemployment, CARES Act benefits

Investigations

LAFOLLETTE, Tenn. (WATE) — Following coronavirus rules, Cynthia Fox sanitizes her school bus daily. She been a driver in Campbell County for eight years.

With her salary, Fox supports herself and her four grandchildren. In June, Cynthia applied for unemployment benefits when she was temporarily laid off. But she has not yet received a check.

Since bus drivers are temporarily laid off in the summer months, under labor laws they’re eligible for state unemployment, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they qualified for additional unemployment benefits.

“Oh, I’ve called them. I’ve called them two or three times every week,” Fox said.

Cynthia said two months ago, she actually spoke with someone about her benefit claim

“She said everything you need is here, your money is sitting right here waiting on you,” Fox said. “She said, ‘I don’t understand why you are not getting your money.’

“And, I still don’t have it. And I was approved, I do qualify for unemployment and down here it says I should receive it within 10 days.”

Gail Adkins has driven a bus for operator Marty Jackson and his wife Susan for 17 years.

“Well we keep calling,” Adkins said. “When we finally get through, if we get through, it is always, ‘The money is there.’ It’s a waiting game; it is ‘in process.’ “

It was June 11, when Susan Jackson filed separation papers with the state for her drivers, like Gail.

“This is where I went on for all of my drivers and filed their separation forms, myself,” Susan said.

“I signed up the 12th,” Gail said. “I was expecting it in two weeks. They hold you a week behind … but it ain’t come yet. All that time, and I got it on my phone, from the Tennessee Department of Labor it says, “In progress.” That’s all it ever says.”

For Marty Jackson, his drivers have been back working since August. But Jackson says he’s concerned about them since a few of them were without a paycheck for two months.

“I’ve even had to loan some of my drivers money to pay their electric bill out of my own pocket,” Marty said. “Just to keep them from turning their electric off.”

“We’re back working,” Cyntha Fox said. “We’re not trying to live off unemployment. We just want what is rightfully ours. And that is it.”

Three months ago, the state Labor Department hired more workers to handle the huge number of unemployment claims filed since the pandemic began in mid-March.

On behalf of the bus drivers, we contacted Nashville and provided information about each one of them showing how they had qualified for benefits. The Labor Department tells WATE 6 On Your Side, Cynthia Fox’s claim has been approved and the department is working on Adkins’ claim.

The state says Fox should be getting her money either today or tomorrow.

In addition to state unemployment benefits, she was also eligible for federal benefits under the CARES Act , specifically the pandemic unemployment compensation program which provided an additional $600 per week before it expired in July.

Fox says the money will be used to catch up on bills she owes.

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