Self-employed roofer waits months for state, federal unemployment benefits

Investigations

(WATE)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An out-of-work, self-employed Campbell County man received good news this week: He is finally getting unemployment benefits from Tennessee and the federal government under the CARES Act.

The unemployed roofer had been fighting since June to receive state benefits; despite repeated efforts, however, his claim had been stalled.

Last Week, he called WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare, who investigated his case.

Roger Blankenship says he couldn’t have made it without the help from good friends like Danny Wilson over the last several months.

Roger is a self-employed roofer in Campbell County. He says many of his contracts scheduled for the spring and summer were canceled. He’s been without work since the pandemic began.  

More than 3 months ago, he applied for state unemployed compensation on the TN Labor Department’s website.

“I’ve provided documents before COVID-19 as well as after COVID-19, showing I did work, what I had done. You are looking here at the weeks filed,” Blankenship said.

In June, the Labor Department approved his  application for benefits and he has re-certified weekly.

“Their response is ‘we’re looking into it, we are working on it… In progress,'” Blankenship said. “I have the Tennessee debit card that was mailed to me back in late June. When it came, there was nothing on it. I would have thought there would have been some money on it at the time. There wasn’t a dime on it, and still hasn’t been a dime put on it. I check my debit card on a daily basis. It is an absolute nightmare.”

For Blankenship, the nightmare began when he couldn’t afford to pay rent on his apartment. He’s presently living with friends. Records show he fell behind in his utility bills. He knew he was eligible for at least state compensation.    

“It is frustrating when you know you have worked your entire life, and this is the first time ever I’ve signed up for unemployment,” Blankenship said. “I have been in touch with the Tennessee-dot-gov, through unemployment, multiple times. Gone back and forth emails, phone calls. The phone call process alone is unimaginable.”

On Roger’s behalf, 6 On Your Side contacted the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development. We were told records show he filed his claim on June 28.

The state writes Because Mr. Blankenship qualifies for Pandemic Unemployment benefits, he can make up certifications back to March 15; the state says Mr. Blankenship’s claim for benefits has been approved.

“It is a wonderful feeling to know that it is coming. But until I see it, it’s like, I got to see it to believe it,” Blankenship said.

On Monday afternoon, the money was transferred to his debit card, Roger Blankenship is grateful.

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