Filing for unemployment in Tennessee is still a slow process

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The number of unemployment claims being filed is slowly falling, but the state of Tennessee is still getting a large number of calls trying to get benefits.

One thing FOX13 has seen over the past few months is that most people aren’t getting many answers until we call the state.

FOX13 spoke with a man who said it took weeks just to get someone on the phone.

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Elliott Brooks worked as a coffee sales representative in downtown Memphis.

He filed for unemployment in April and finally got someone on the phone about it this week.

“Please help these people like myself that need the benefits,” he said.

Brooks didn’t get a phone call from his boss to return to work after the pandemic forced layoffs at his company April 2.

The father of two filed for unemployment a week later, but it wasn’t until this week that he got someone on the phone to answer questions about unemployment.

“I heard back from them three days ago, and they’re saying that I owe them money before I can receive my money, so basically I’m in limbo,” Brooks said.

A spokesman for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development told FOX13 under state law if a claimant has a fraud overpayment from the past, they are not eligible to get more benefits until that overpayment is fully paid back.

If it’s not fraud, the department can use their new benefit payments to pay it back including extra money from the federal government.

The spokesman said new federal rules allow those extra benefits to help pay back fraud overpayment.

“It’s just very stressful,” said Brooks.

Brooks said he fears that when he does pay the money he owes, he may have to wait even longer to get the rest of his unemployment benefits to take care of his wife and two children.

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He told FOX13 he wonders how long it will take to get someone on the phone again to answer additional questions.

“Hopefully this will get better,” he said.

Friday, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development added voicemail as an additional communication option for people to leave critical information.

Its virtual chat agent ‘Peyton’ went live Tuesday. During business hours Peyton can transfer a chat to a live agent if needed.

Peyton can answer dozens of questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.