Tennesseeans having trouble with unemployment filings as coronavirus crisis persists

Self-employed struggling to get benefits during COVID-19 crisis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Many people have been out of work for weeks and they have filed for unemployment, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee admitted Tuesday. But for the unemployed, self-employed Tennesseans it is almost impossible to file.

“I’ve two weddings canceled just this week," said photographer Sarah Pelcharsky. "I had three last week for spring and summer weddings so it’s hit us pretty hard.”

Pelcharsky is a self-employed photographer with Oh Snap photography. Since the coronavirus, her business has evaporated and it is difficult for her and her husband to make it.

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“We’re waiting for money to fall out of the sky," she said.

And she thought that money would come from the state since self-employed people can now file for unemployment insurance because of the coronavirus. But she and other Tennesseans who have applied with the state got denials.

“We knew this stuff was coming and the state of Tennessee is completely unprepared for where we for what’s to come,” said Tennessee State Representative Antonio Parkinson.

Parkinson said the state does not have a portal set up for self-employed people and what they have is almost impossible to navigate. He says he was told if a self-employed person is denied the applications are still being processed.

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“There’s no reason to be holding families up or individuals up, tax-paying individuals as a matter of fact, that are in probably the most horrifying period of their lives.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee addressed this problem in a news conference Tuesday saying the state has received 25 times more unemployment claims. He also said 100,000 unemployment claims will be processed and paid this week.

“Self-employed Tennesseans need this assistance," said Lee. "We’re working with the federal government to make sure that they get it. We are hopeful for a quick resolution for this.”

Pelcharsky says it can’t come soon enough as she watches what promised to be a great year disappear in a flash.

“This was going to be my year and I was so excited and 2020 was going to be so much different and I was excited to be able to expand my business and do so much better and now we don’t know," she said.

Governor Lee says the state is working to get the self-employed portal up and running properly so it is not so difficult to navigate. He also said many more employees are being added to handle all of the claims.

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