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Many laid-off Tennesseans are waiting weeks to get unemployment checks

The Local I-Team investigated why it's taking so long.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Here in the Mid-South, thousands of laid off workers have a lot of questions about their unemployment checks. Many have been waiting weeks to get them. Others wonder if the state will run out of money because so many people are trying to collect.

A Millington man finally got his money, once the Local I-Team started asking questions.

"It shouldn't take seven weeks to handle this," said Dave O'Dell.

O'Dell has been waiting since mid-April for his unemployment check to arrive. He lost his job because of the pandemic. Every week he filed, but his account would only say "in progress," and it never paid out.

"Without my wife's income, and seven weeks into this, I would probably lose everything,” said O'Dell. "If I was single trying to raise my granddaughter by myself, this would be horrible. I wouldn't be able to feed her."

Odell isn't alone. Almost 30,000 Tennesseans are waiting for their unemployment checks to be processed by state.

Chris Cannon, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce, says initially more than half a million people filed claims for unemployment. The majority are now processed, but there is still a small percentage that have not been cleared from the system.

"When you are in that small percentage, it doesn't matter how many people have been paid. We know that's an issue," said Cannon.

Cannon says the department has doubled the number of claims agents to help clear the backlog.

In Odell's case, Cannon says there was an error made in the application. His unemployment was finally approved after we brought it to the state’s attention.

"That's all it took was someone getting in there and working that claim and determining exactly what the issue was,” said Cannon.

Odell is thankful his money is now on the way, but feels for all the others facing similar challenges.

"I pray for all those single parents out there and the people who are really effected by this," said O'Dell.

As for the stability of the state’s unemployment fund, we are told for now, it’s fine. The state used Federal Cares Act money to supplement it and that should last until June.

If the fund runs dry, the state could borrow from the feds to pay claims.

Once a claim is filed for Unemployment Insurance, the agency, claimant, and former employer have responsibilities that assist with its progression. While it may take up to 4 weeks for a decision to be finalized, claimant's have the ability to track their claim and review status information at their convenience.

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