Unemployment woes: what is the State doing? - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Unemployment woes: what is the State doing?

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Athens mom and grandma, Christine Davis, has two masters degrees. She's a certified teacher and wants to begin working on her doctorate but right now her priorities are finding a job and saving her home.  

"Living with family or maybe, you know, in the street, there's nothing coming in," Davis says.

She has no unemployment benefits although she filed for it days after she was let go from her job due to medical reasons in late February. "May, 5 it will be eight weeks," Davis says.

The federal guideline to receive unemployment after you're approved is 21 days. However, numerous callers to the Channel 3 newsroom say its been weeks and sometimes months before they hear back from the Department of Labor.

"I know that's tough, but that's the reality right now," says Jeff Hentschell with the Department of Labor.

He's no stranger to the complaints facing his office. "I know its tough, I talk with people everyday. I'm in the information office, I get calls from people who are in the same boat, who are at the end of their economic means. To those people I'd say utilize the system as best you can but plan for the worst," Hentschell says.

A new administration team at the Department of Labor promises changes are on the way. "We're finding holes and things that we can fix that have greatly reduced the call volumes," Hentschell explains.

Currently the database that is the Department of Labor's claims center is running on a 42-year-old system., an upgrade is far past due.

"Within two years we will have a brand new system," Hentschell says.

The upgrade will reduce the time it takes to decide a claim, resolve certification issues and allow everyone to file online, but there's still the lack of human to human contact.

"Unfortunately we just can't have enough people to talk one on one with every claimant that's out there," says Hentschell.

Davis disagrees, "even if its regional there needs to be a representative where people can go and actually talk to someone face to face."

Federal dollars means limited resources and relying heavily on technology. There are 4,000 new claims every week and 30,000 across the state. Many of which won't benefit from the 21 day guideline to receive unemployment.

"We're finding about 50 to 60 percent we are hitting that mark, for the rest we are not," Hentschell says.

For people like Christine, finding a job anywhere they can may be their only hope. "I'm praying that I get something but so far, nothing," says Davis.

 Later this month the Department of Labor will launch a new system that will allow claimants to track their progress after filing for unemployment.

There are also talks to extend the amount of time a person can receive unemployment back to 99 weeks. Those benefits stopped in January of this year, cutting off 18,000 Tennesseans from unemployment.
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