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WJHL: From stress to sunshine: Woman's long-delayed unemployment claim approved

Updated: May 29, 2020

Jeff Keeling | WJHL | May 14, 2020

GREENE COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Lori Baskette figured she’d made a simple mistake or two on her unemployment application. With Tennessee’s system overloaded, it had cost her weeks without a resolution of her case.

“I just wanted a person to talk to or email with – just any communication,” said Baskette, who first applied for benefits in mid-March after shutting down her Rogersville restaurant.

When she contacted News Channel 11 Wednesday morning, Baskette’s daily calls to the Department of Labor (DOL) had been unsuccessful. “The 615 number that I had I leave a message at least once a day if not twice a day,” Baskette said.

Other phone numbers in the DOL list didn’t even allow her to leave a message. “It says due to high call volume they can’t put you in line or anything, so it just hangs up,” she said.

Baskette is among many Tennesseans with claims that aren’t normal. Self-employed people like her are potentially eligible for unemployment for the first time ever. So are people who’ve been offered a job but not been able to start it yet due to COVID-19 — another category she fits into, having also accepted a U.S. Census Bureau job in mid-February.

Baskette thought she had transitioned her claim to the census job in mid-April. She still wasn’t getting any feedback except “pending,” so she called a friend who had also accepted a census job.

“We had worked together on the census before,” Baskette said. “I was having so much problem that I called her and asked her if she had applied.”

Her friend had not, but did at Baskette’s urging even though she hadn’t had a regular job that paid into unemployment for some years. She started receiving benefits the next week and had received four weekly payments by Thursday — with Baskette still in limbo.

“I asked her for half of it but it didn’t work out,” Baskette said jokingly during a noon phone call.

One situation fixed — many more unresolved

WJHL had contacted Baskette’s state representative, David Hawk (R-Greeneville) Wednesday afternoon and he had gotten her story. WJHL also gave DOL’s Chris Cannon information on her situation Thursday morning.

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