More trouble for job seekers looking to state benefits system - CBS46 News

More trouble for job seekers looking to state benefits system

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There is more trouble for job seekers in Tennessee. Last month, the Channel 4 I-Team investigated after viewers said they couldn't get through to the state's unemployment benefits system.

Time and time again, the state has promised upgrades and even told us about a new improvement they said would help those who are struggling with long wait times.

But once again, we have found the unemployed facing another hang-up.

"I am definitely hurting. I have had to borrow money from my credit union," said job seeker Jim Narveson.

After our investigation aired, Narveson called to let us know he too couldn't get through to the Tennessee unemployment benefits system.

"The system isn't working the way it's supposed to. I think the taxpayers are getting shortchanged," he said.

And he's not alone.

The Channel 4 I-Team asked the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development why the backlog hasn't been fixed after all these years.

"We can get as many as 20,000 calls that come into the phone lines, and, at most, we can handle about half of those calls," said department spokesman Jeff Hentschel.

Hentschel also said the system has been back-logged since the recession started, but they have made recent improvements like a new form on the website for the unemployed having trouble with the filing system.

"You click on that and fill out the form, and you'll get a call within two days," Hentschel said.

The problem is we heard a much different story from frustrated job seekers.

"The request form is working, but the response since your original story has been extraordinary. The department was initially receiving approximately 100 requests per day, which has recently peaked at 800 per day," Hentschel said.

The department also adjusted the response time from two days to five to seven working days.

Narveson filed a claim back in August when he lost his job. He was able to find work since then but says his hours were recently cut. He wants to file a new claim but hasn't been able to get through.

Now, he hopes this new form will lead to a call back.

"I'll cross my fingers and pray to God I do," he said.

We're told the state labor department has hired more workers to try to meet the demand.

It's important to note the department says the new online form is for those job seekers who have already filed an unemployment claim and not for those trying to apply.

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