Coronavirus: Sevier County woman shares frustrations with state unemployment

Investigations

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Hundreds of thousands of people are unemployed in Tennessee because of COVID-19. Since early April, many of those out of work started receiving special unemployment checks made possible under the CARES Act because of the pandemic.

This week, WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare talked with an unemployed woman who has yet to receive her check.

If you lost your job due to the coronavirus, to be eligible for benefits under the CARES Act passed by Congress, you first have to register with the state.

However, some people waited a long time to get their unemployment check; WATE 6 On Your Side made some calls this week on behalf of a Sevier County woman to find out why her check is late.

In Kodak, Cheryl McCabe and her husband Peter enjoy their two cats. McCabe is unemployed because of the pandemic, and she was first temporarily furloughed from her job March 22.

She applied for unemployment at the end of March, however, her company continued to pay her $250 a week, but the furlough with pay ended April 23. She’s waited now nearly a month for her first unemployment check from the state.

“Originally when I filed on the 29th of March, I was notified by the unemployment office that I was eligible for $133 a week.”

Cheryl McCabe

She didn’t start receiving the $133 since the place she worked was still paying her.

“Because the company paid us $250, I knew that I wasn’t entitled to collect any unemployment at that point, but the understanding was after I stopped receiving the $250 a week from the company, the unemployment would kick in so I continued to do my weekly filings.”

Cheryl McCabe

Then she received a notice from her company her furlough money was ending.

April 23 was our last check from the company. I still have yet to receive anything and I’ve filed for the last four weeks and received 0.”

Cheryl McCabe

The Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development says it’s working through claims as quickly as possible. It’s added 400 people to work as claims agents in call centers to handle the high volume of daily calls.

Tuesday morning, Cheryl called the claims office in Nashville but her call was answered by a machine claiming all of their agents are working with other customers, and won’t be able to put her on hold.

WATE 6 On Your Side contacted the Dept. of Labor about McCabe’s issue, and it’s now been solved: The state says the problem was the pause in her claim from March 29 when she first applied through April 23, when the furlough money ended. Her claim is now approved.

McCabe was delighted when she was told the news on Tuesday.

Since mid-March, nearly half a million Tennesseans have sought unemployment benefits and the Dept. of Labor says unemployed people in the state received more than $850 million in benefits in April.

For those trying to reach unemployment online, the state says its website vendor installed new equipment to expand the site’s processing capacity, and the hours of operation include both Saturday and Sunday.

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