‘Don’t give up’: Unemployment benefits paid up to Knoxville man

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s taken nearly five months, but at long last, a Knoxville man finally received his state unemployment check.

While numbers from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development show continued unemployment claims are dropping, there are still thousands of people waiting on the state benefits.

Many complicated unemployment cases end up being delayed. Tonight, Bryan Hendrix will no longer have to hold his breath every time a bill arrives. Until a few weeks ago, when he found work again, Hendrix had registered every week for state unemployment benefits, but they never arrived. Apparently, there had been some miscommunication.

Bryan Hendrix can breathe again. His long-awaited unemployment benefits that stretch over months were recently deposited into his bank. In looking at his claims summary, $517 per week is the back pay that was put into his account; Hendrix said he’d waited several weeks.

“A lot of bills have piled. Some friends have helped to keep me from being evicted, keep my utilities on and gas in the car. And I had some medical bills that were just about to go to collections,” Bryan Hendrix said.

Two weeks ago, we reported how Hendrix spent hours a day checking on his unemployment status with the state of Tennessee. Sitting in his sparsely furnished apartment, friends lent him money since losing his steady job in January — Bryan doesn’t like being unemployed and recently found a job. On the state’s website, he registered in January … then waited and waited again for his benefits.

“I’ve been cert, certifying for 18 weeks. It took about 7 or 8 weeks just to get the approval letter from the Department of Labor.” Bryan Hendrix said. “I called them and went through the same thing everyone else does — wait and wait and wait. The system either hangs up on you, or if you do get to talk with someone, they don’t really have any answers and you can tell they’re reading from a script. So, they don’t know when I will be paid.”

When the pandemic arrived in Tennessee last year, the state added people at the Labor Department to deal with the unprecedented number of unemployment claims. We contracted the state earlier this month about Hendrix’s complicated case.

“I got a phone call the day after you and I spoke. It was about a 20-minute conversation with a lady there at the department of labor. She said I can’t make any promises, it might be 2 or 3 weeks, but as it turned out two days later I got paid,” Bryan Hendrix said..

Apparently, there was some confusion with the temp jobs he had after he lost his full-time job.

“i had changed temp agencies because the one I was working for closed at the end of the year. So, another agency picked up the contract that I was on, and that seemed to be the source of confusion at the department of labor,” he said.

No longer will Hendrix have to check his weekly unemployment claims summary to find his current status. He encourages others not to give up.

“You know there is hope, you have to keep working at it. Don’t give up. You have to keep working at it. Finding a job is a job. That’s what they’re trying to teach us, they want us to be diligent, keep working and pushing forward,” he said.

The state tells WATE 6 On Your Side that once a claim is filed for unemployment benefits, the claimant and former employer have responsibilities that assist with its progression. In Hendrix’s case, his former employer did not provide the correct information to the state. Because he had been waiting months for his benefits, we asked the state last month to investigate his case, and they did. We’re pleased that we could help.

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