Knoxville gig worker wins unemployment after weeks of waiting

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For months, a gig worker, or independent contractor, has waited for her pandemic unemployment check through the federal government.

To apply for it, she had to go through the Tennessee labor department’s unemployment website, but the check never came.

Since she qualified for compensation, she called WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare asking for help.

Nancy Snowden, a widow, has been out of work since mid-March. She’s an independent contractor. A gig worker who demonstrates food and drinks at places like Kroger and Walmart.

Under the federal disaster unemployment assistance program for COVID-19, she is eligible for benefits. Months ago, she went to the Tennessee Department of Labor’s website to register.

Gig workers are not eligible for Tennessee unemployment compensation, but they are eligible for federal pandemic compensation.

“They stated that gig workers were going to qualify for this. I’m a gig worker. Therefore, go ahead and send your application in. That is what I did. It took me 20 hours to navigate their system with my Smartphone,” Snowden said.

Snowden registered in April, but heard nothing. She contacted the state again in May. Same frustrating result.

“I couldn’t reach anybody, I couldn’t call anybody.  I sent emails, there was no answer. I got on their website to their chat room for them to talk to me about my problem,” Snowden said. “It listed that I was the 1,060th-some person. I thought ‘I’m not sitting here for that.’ “

The state has added hundreds of workers in Nashville to handle thousands of people filing for unemployment compensation. Being on hold for a long time is not unusual.

“I thought I did everything right,” Snowden said.

When Snowden contacted us yesterday. We sent an email to the state explaining her situation. Within two hours, there was a response.

“Oh, they said they had approved my application. I was really sweating this. I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Snowden said.

Soon, her unemployment check from the federal government will be on its way — within a few days.

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