Tennessee government officials told The Tennessee Star they’ve received about 300 complaints of individuals passing up work for unemployment benefits. According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD), these are the total complaints filed since last March – when Governor Bill Lee first declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19. Unemployment claims have fallen steadily since the beginning of the pandemic – claims reached their height a little over a year ago, totaling over 325,000.
Nearly 264,000 job postings are active currently on the state’s job site alone. As of May 8, TDLWD reported a total of 50,376 continued claims, and the unemployment rate sits at 5 percent. Of 95 counties in the state, only 8 have continued unemployment claims running in the thousands: Shelby, Davidson, Rutherford, Knox, Hamilton, Montgomery, Sumner, and Maury counties. Shelby County leads by far, with over 13,000 continued claims – coming in second is Davidson County with around half that amount: over 6,600 continued claims.
According to Tennessee Code, individuals who turn down work in order to continue claiming unemployment benefits must repay any benefits incurred from the point when they refused suitable work. Those individuals may also face penalties, interests, and criminal prosecution.
As The Star reported Wednesday, Governor Bill Lee announced that all federally funded unemployment would end on July 3.
“Families, businesses [and] our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment [and] move on from short-term, federal fixes,” asserted Lee.
We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state. Families, businesses & our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment & move on from short-term, federal fixes.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) May 11, 2021
Tennessee employers may file a report online with TDLWD if an employee refuses to return to work and doesn’t meet specific COVID-related exemptions. They may also call the Refusal of Suitable Work line at (833) 319-1255.
To date, Tennessee has paid out nearly $8 million in unemployment claims. Federal unemployment payouts within Tennessee register at just over $58 million.
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