The Investigators: Waiting on the state, hundreds of Tennesseans who are eligible for unemployment have not received their benefits

Hundreds of Tennesseans who are eligible for unemployment have not received their benefits

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Hundreds of Tennesseans haven’t yet received their unemployment benefits because they owe the money to the state.

While a new federal rule allows states to take what they’re owed from a person’s federal unemployment check, the rule isn’t being followed yet in Tennessee and 2,774 unemployed workers are without any income.

Anthony Parker is one of them. He’s been unemployed for over three months.

“This process has gone way too long,” said Parker. “If it wasn’t for the fact that I had sense enough to save while I was actually working, I would be up the creek right now.”

Parker’s issue stems from 2011 when Parker was receiving unemployment after he was laid off from his financial analyst job.

In November of that year, Parker received $300 more than he was supposed to and he has owed that money to the Tennessee Department of Labor ever since.

When Parker applied for unemployment again this year, he said he talked to the state about his debt.

“They were going to go ahead and process my claim and take out whatever this overpayment was and they would send me the rest,” said Parker.

According to Tennessee law, when someone receives a “fraud overpayment”, they have to pay back what they owe plus penalties before they’re eligible to receive benefits once again.

However, a letter sent from the U.S. Department of Labor to all state workforce agencies stated that people like Parker can receive federal unemployment compensation and the state can take what it’s owed from that money.

The Investigators discovered that the Tennessee Department of Labor had to build an online program to be able to process those claims.

Nearly two months later, the program still isn’t ready.

The Investigators asked about the hold up and a spokesperson sent us a timeline.

The U.S. Department of Labor sent the letter on April 27 saying fraud overpayments could be processed.

A week later, on May 4, Tennessee asked for guidance on how to do that.

On May 13, the state asked its vendor, which updates the Department of Labor website, to start updating the system but the vendor said it needed to wait for additional guidance.

That guidance was finally received on May 19.

Now, more than a month later, we’re told the system should be up and running next week. Claims, like Parker’s, will then be automatically processed.

“I’d like to hold my enthusiasm until I can see that it’s been processed,” said Parker.

According to the Department of Labor, people who have filed have been or are being transferred to the federal unemployment compensation program.

If someone with an overpayment has not reached out to the Department, they would still need to do so by filing a new claim.

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