Weekly claims for unemployment may have begun to taper off in the last few weeks, but the number of people who’ve lost their job since COVID began ripping its way through the economy still makes for grim reading. As tennessean.com notes, in Tennessee, 581,405 residents have filed new unemployment claims since March 15, with 302,260 of these continued in the week ending May 30. While unemployment benefits won’t fill the gap of a lost income entirely, they can at least serve as a stop-gap until new employment is found. If you’re one of the thousands of Tennesseans who’ve lost their job or had their hours reduced as a result of the crisis, here’s how to file for unemployment in Tennessee.
Do I Qualify?
Since the COVID crisis began, certain changes have been made to the eligibility requirements for unemployment. Previously, anyone hoping to collect benefits would need to:
- Have been made unemployed through no fault of their own
- Be legally authorized to work in the United States
- Have worked in Tennessee within the last 18 months (those who live in Tennessee, but most recently worked in another state will need to file in the state in which they worked)
- Be willing and able to work, and be actively seeking new employment
- Have earned a minimum of $780.01 in two separate quarters of the base period (i.e. the first four of the last 5 quarters before their claim)
Since March, Tennessee has relaxed the work-search requirement in certain circumstances. If you’ve been ordered to quarantine or isolate by a medical professional or health authority because you’ve either tested positive for COVID or have been exposed to COVID, are a primary caregiver to someone in the same situation, can’t get to work because of school closures, or have been temporarily laid off because of COVID, you’ll still be able to claim. If you’ve been asked to reduce your hours by your employer because of COVID, you might be eligible for partial benefits, depending on your current income. In an additional change to previous guidelines, freelancers, contractors, and self-employed persons who’ve been financially impacted by the crisis are now eligible to claim support under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
How Do I File?
Before you begin your application, Tennessee’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development recommend you have the following to hand:
- Social Security Number
- Driver’s License Number
- Telephone Number
- Valid email address
Tennessee Unemployment Insurance claimants receive their benefits via the Tennessee Automated Payment (TAP) debit card or direct deposit. To receive benefits by direct deposit, you’ll need to provide your bank routing number and account number.
- DD 214 Member 4 if you served in the military in the past 18 months
- Last 18 months of Employment history
- Last Day Worked
- Reason for Separation
- Separating Employer’s Name
- Separating Employer’s Address
- Separating Employer’s Telephone Number
- Separating Employer’s Fax Number (if known)
Once you’ve gathered all the required information, proceed to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s online portal to log your claim. Once you’ve logged your initial claim, you’ll need to start certifying for weekly payment. The certification process is much simpler and quicker than the initial claim, but it’s imperative you don’t forget – if you forget to certify a claim, you won’t be eligible to receive payment for the skipped week. Note that you’ll need to start certifying immediately after logging your initial claim, even if you haven’t yet been approved.
How Much Will I Receive?
Tennessee has set the weekly benefits minimum at $30 and the maximum at $275: however, the total amount you can collect will be determined by your average wage over the two highest-earning quarters of your base period. Regardless of what the state pays, you can also expect an additional $600 per week until the end of July as one of the conditions of the CARES Act. Your eligibility for the payment will be automatically calculated by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development after they receive your initial claim, so no further action will be needed on your side to benefit.
How Long Can I Collect?
As The Ascent notes, Tennessee usually imposes a 26 week limit on how long unemployment benefits can be collected. However, under the provisions of the CARES act, this has now been extended by an additional 13 weeks, taking the total to 39 weeks until the end of July.
Can I Appeal if My Claim is Denied?
Once you’ve logged your claim, the first thing you can expect to receive from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development is a Monetary Determination. If you chose to receive this by internal message or email, this should be sent immediately. If you chose to receive it by mail, expect to receive it within 2 weeks. The Determination will confirm how much you’ll receive in weekly benefits if your claim is approved – however, note that it doesn’t constitute approval in itself.
The department will then assess your eligibility – if any further information is needed to support their review, they’ll contact you directly. If the claim is simple, a decision can sometimes be made within 24 hours. More complex claims may take up to three weeks to review. Once a decision has been reached, the department will issue a second determination letter confirming whether or not your claim has been accepted. It will also reconfirm your weekly benefits amount, along with the number of weeks you can collect.
If your claim has been approved, your first payment should usually follow within 72 hours. If your claim has been denied, you may wish to file an appeal. Appeals can be made at Jobs4TN: once you’ve logged in, select the determination(s) you want to appeal, select ‘File Appeal’ under ‘Services for Individuals’, then ‘Unemployment Services’. Once your appeal request has been received, the department will contact you with details of the next steps.