Tennessee paid out $94 million Tuesday to people who are unemployed in the state, in its first day of distributing federal pandemic aid. But many others are reporting difficulties even getting onto the portal to file claims.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which runs jobs4tn.gov, says the unemployment portal was built to handle 15,000 to 20,000 claims per week — but it’s now getting hundreds of thousands.
Spokesperson Chris Cannon says the department tried to prepare for the anticipated influx by upgrading its servers early on and tripling its claims staff. The staff, he notes, is experiencing the same slowdown.
“As difficult as it is for the customer to use this website because of these capacity issues, it’s just as difficult on the backside for our employees to use it,” Cannon says. “It’s one website and if it’s moving slowly, it’s moving slowly for everyone.”
The department has now ordered new servers, which Cannon says will take another week or two to go online. Until then, the site will be offline for customers every day from 1 to 5 a.m. so that payments can be processed.
It’s also changing the rules for when people can file claims. All unemployment applicants and current recipients need to certify their unemployment status every week, and right now, most people are choosing to file claims on Sunday so that they can receive their deposit as early as possible. But starting next week, certification days will be staggered by social security number: Anyone with a social security number ending in 0 to 3 will certify on Sundays, 4 to 6 on Mondays, and 7 to 9 on Tuesdays. If someone misses their day, they’ll have to wait until at least Wednesday to try again.
For those people who have been unable to get through the site so far, Cannon says they now have five weeks to make up a missed certification.
“I know people think we’re not doing anything, but trust me when I say it is the last thing people in this department think of when they go to bed and the first thing they’re worrying about when they wake up,” Cannon says.
So far this week, 110,000 people were able to get their claims certified for the $600 weekly federal pandemic aid. The department expects that number to rise to at least 150,000 by the end of the week.
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development often sends out responses to frequently asked questions on its Twitter account.