Governor Phil Bredesen recently signed into law legislation extending unemployment benefits with federal funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Tennessee Extended Benefits Program adds a maximum of 20 weeks of benefits for claimants who exhausted their emergency unemployment compensation benefits on or after February 28, 2009.
"The extended benefits provided by the Recovery Act will help eligible Tennesseans who have exhausted their emergency unemployment benefits," said James Neeley, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. "And since the federal government pays 100 percent of the costs to extend the benefits, the money will not be drawn from Tennessee's unemployment trust fund."
Unemployed Tennesseans who believe they may be eligible for state extended benefits will file online by accessing the department's Web site at http://tn.gov/labor-wfd/. The extended benefit application will be available online beginning July15, 2009. No applications will be available before July 15. Unemployment claimants who are receiving benefits as of July 15 will automatically transition to the extended benefits and will not have to reapply.
Those who meet the requirements to establish an extended benefits claim will receive a notice of monetary entitlement that will be mailed within 28 days advising claimants of the amount of benefits. Benefits will not be paid until eligibility is determined. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development will contact individuals directly if additional information is required.
Individuals who do not have access to a personal computer may go to their nearest Tennessee Career Center where staff will assist claimants in accessing the Internet application. Paper copies of the applications may be requested; however mail-in claims will take longer to process.
State extended benefits differ from regular state unemployment and federal emergency unemployment in two major ways:
Claimants will be required to make a minimum of two tangible and documented work searches each week. Claimants will be required to keep a journal of these work searches that is subject to periodic inspection by the agency to verify compliance. An additional question will be added to extended benefit weekly certifications asking claimants if they have documented their work searches for the week.
The definition of suitable work has changed. If a claimant refuses a job where the weekly wage is greater than the weekly benefit amount of unemployment, the unemployment claim is stopped.
The extended benefit program ends on December 26, 2009.