Tennessee set to stop handing out federal unemployment, but some say they’re still waiting

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In Tennessee, the money the federal government gave out to people who lost jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic is going away soon.

But it comes as many people complain they have not received their unemployment money yet.

The extra $300 weekly payment unemployed people have been getting is going away next month as Tennessee opts out of receiving the federal funds.

“Beginning July 4, Tennessee will transition to state-only unemployment benefits,” said Chris Cannon with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The state says the end of the federal program won’t stop money that has been approved.

“If someone is waiting right now for a determination on their claim, and they’re continuing to certify right up to July 3, any money that they had previously certified for and are eligible for leading up to July 3, they will receive all those payments retroactively in a lump sum,” said Cannon.

But on the flip side, many say getting rid of the federal subsidy would prompt people to get back to work.

“The federal unemployment benefits have hampered. I’m sure it was a pretty large degree,” said
Ernie Mellor, who owns Hog Wild BBQ.

Mellor opened a new location in East Memphis a month ago. He says business is brisk but finding workers is another thing.

“I can tell you that every restaurant, and there are a bunch of them within a mile from here, I guarantee you that 95%, if not all of them, are looking for people for all different positions,” Mellor said.

The state echoes that, saying there are hundreds of jobs on its website from across the state. There are also programs to help with everything from gas and uniforms to transportation to get to work.

“Employers here in Tennessee are looking for workers and they need workers, and there are jobs out there right now, and we’re ready to help folks transition back into the workforce, find them the right job,” said Cannon.

“I hope that some folks will feel the need to go back to work and want to work and come in and do the best job that they can do for whoever they go to work for,” Mellor said.

The state has also been using direct messages, emails and other outreach methods to let people receiving unemployment know about the changes coming.

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