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Unemployment claims rise as jobs are lost during pandemic

"If this virus impacts your job, there is potentially some help from the state of Tennessee."

TENNESSEE, USA — Across Tennessee, thousands of people are losing their jobs amidst the pandemic, but there are unemployment resources available to help.

According to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, in the first week of March, 2,031 unemployment claims were filed. The next week, 6,092 new claims were submitted. That's close to a 200 percent increase.

The largest industries hit are food service, entertainment and the travel/hotels. East Tennessee is feeling the impact already.

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Jeremy Faison, a Tennessee Republican Representative for District 11, posted a Facebook Live video on Tuesday addressing some of the concerns about unemployment in the state.

"The area of Tennessee that I represent is one of our more economically distressed communities, and I have plenty of people who I represent who need that safety net," Faison said.

Tuesday, Governor Bill Lee announced The Department of Human Services is setting up an emergency cash assistance program through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.

Back in November, Lee announced the money in the TANF fund would be stored and saved just in case of an economic downturn. Now, it's being put to use.

Danielle Barnes, the commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Human Services, explained what that means in Faison's Facebook Live video.

"We are going to be releasing emergency cash benefits, which will allow those individuals who have been impacted with a job loss as a result of COVID-19 additional cash assistance for up to two months to be able to survive and live and thrive during this tenuous time," Barnes said.

It's important to note those benefits through TANF are only for families who have been affected by COVID-19 job closures. Single people cannot apply. 

A family in this situation that would be eligible, as defined by DHS, can be a pregnant woman and households with children 18 and under.

DHS clarified amount of money given depends on the number of family members. For example: a family of five or more may be given $1,000 a month for two months, a family of three to four may be given $750 a month for two months and a family of one to two may be awarded $500 a month for up to two months.

If you are single, or do not qualify for the TANF benefits, you can still file for unemployment. There are different types of claims, for both temporary and seasonal unemployment and longer term. There are certain qualifications you have to meet to be able to qualify. Visit https://www.tn.gov/workforce for more info.

You are able to file both for an unemployment claim through the state and apply for the new TANF benefits if you meet both criteria.

The Department of Human Services said applications online should be available next week on their website, tn.gov/humanservices.

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