Some Tennesseans receiving unemployment benefits will once again be required to complete weekly work searches as part of their weekly certifications beginning Sunday, Oct. 4.
This means that individuals who plan to file their weekly certification for Oct. 4 will need to start work search activities the week of Sept. 27, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced Monday.
The change is not unexpected — Commissioner Jeff McCord announced in late August that the requirement would resume, though he did not announce the exact date at that time.
The work searches were a required part of weekly unemployment certifications to receive benefits prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Bill Lee previously issued a temporary executive order that modified the work search requirements as the job market constricted. The order allowed applicants to instead maintain a re-employment plan, submit a resume, or create a career profile on the department’s site, among other things.
“While it’s important that we provide that continued benefit to those who find themselves in an extended period of hardship, we also have to look for a long-term repair to our state’s economy to get Tennesseans back to the stability of good paying jobs,” Lee said in a news conference on Aug. 25. “At the height of the pandemic, the department temporarily suspended the work search requirement associated with unemployment benefits, but as the process of economic recovery continues and employers desperately need employees, the department will begin the process of reinstating work search requirements.”
Tennesseans who are out of work and do not have a job to return to must complete and document three weekly job searches starting Oct. 4. Failing to complete weekly job searches will result in denial of benefits for the weeks an individual fails to meet that eligibility requirement, according to the state department of labor.
Work searches can include:
- Searching for jobs on Jobs4TN.gov
- Completing job applications either in person, via mail or online
- Visiting employers in person
- Interviewing with potential employers
- Registering for work with private employment or placement agencies or hiring unions
- Using American Job Center resources that can lead to obtaining work
Providing false work search information can result in unemployed individuals being barred from benefits for eight weeks, according to the department.
Self-employed individuals will not have to complete work searches starting Oct. 4, but instead complete “business improvement or enhancement activities,” according to the state department of labor. This can include calling clients, submitting proposals and bids, attending training or applying for contract or gig work.
Self-employed individuals who do not plan to reopen their business must complete a work registration and seek work, a department release states.
Those who were temporarily laid off from their job and have a definitive return to work date are exempt from the work search requirement. Union workers who obtained employment through their union hiring hall are also exempt.
Individuals who are out of work due to COVID-19 because of one of the reasons listed in the CARES Act may be exempt, provided that they self-certify that they are able and available but cannot search for work due to one of the CARES Act designations.
Job search help
The department of labor offers several free job search tools to Tennesseans, though individuals can also use traditional job search methods to satisfy the weekly job search requirement.
More than 210,000 job openings across the state are listed on the Jobs4TN.gov website, where Tennesseans can also find job training opportunities and career services.
Career specialists at more than 80 American Job Centers throughout the state can provide one-on-one job search assistance and connections to job fairs and potential training assistance.
The centers also offer Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment program appointments, which help those deemed most likely to exhaust their benefits transition to employment.
Specialists can also help connect unemployed Tennesseans to programs for free or reduced transportation costs, childcare, uniforms and more.
Cassandra Stephenson is a reporter for The Tennessean. Reach Cassandra at [email protected]
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