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Tennessee begins paying unemployment to self-employed workers

The state of Tennessee began providing economic relief to thousands of self-employed individuals by paying Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits made available to them through the federal government’s CARES Act.

After building the system necessary to accommodate this new benefit, The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD) began processing unemployment applications under PUA guidelines set by the United States Department of Labor.

Self-employed individuals are not typically eligible for unemployment. PUA provided the funding necessary to pay benefits to Tennesseans who have not been able to work in order to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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The Department began processing eligible claims on April 22 and continued processing into the weekend. Tens of thousands of eligible individuals should have funds deposited into their bank accounts or debit cards this week.

In order to process the claims in the most expedient manner possible, all claimants will first receive the minimum weekly PUA benefit of $120 and the additional $600 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefit. Individuals eligible for more than the minimum will see their payments adjusted up over time. Payments are retroactive to March 15 or when the claimant first applied. The FPUC benefit is retroactive back to the week ending April 4.

TDLWD utilized the minimum payment method in order to distribute benefits immediately, and then take the necessary time needed to calculate each claimant’s weekly benefit amount (WBA). Once the Department finalizes a WBA, the claimant will receive the difference between the minimum and their actual benefit in a later payment.

The Department will contact each claimant to request wage information if it has not already been provided. Claimants will also receive instructions on how to become current on any missed weekly certifications. It is extremely important claimants do not make any changes to their claims while they are processing in order to prevent issues that could cause a delay.

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PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to qualifying individuals who are otherwise able to work and available for work within the meaning of applicable state law, except that they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to COVID-19 related reasons, as defined in the CARES Act. PUA benefits cannot be paid for weeks of unemployment ending after December 31, 2020.

Self-employed Tennesseans can still apply for PUA by visiting or calling 844-432-0969.

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