Tough choices for unemployed Tennesseans after $600 weekly benefit expires

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Imagine making the choice of paying for rent, food, or insurance. That’s the dilemma a lot of Tennesseans face after an extra federal jobless benefit of $600 weekly expired July 31.

“Its definitely a decision between paying rent, or food, a phone bill, car insurance,” Holly Harper told WKRN-TV Wednesday.

She and husband Trey Harper of the Joelton area are both out of work because COVID-19 shut down parts of the economy.

Harper had been working two jobs as a massage therapist and with a company doing census work.

“Due to the virus, they ramped down,” said Harper.

Trey is self-employed as an auto body and paint specialist. While Holly’s unemployment suddenly stopped in June a few weeks after her first check, Trey was getting the $600 weekly from the Federal CARES Act to help those without work.

The unemployment situation changed dramatically this week for the couple.

“When Trey got his, he did receive the unemployment minus the $600 so this was the first week that was not included,” said Harper.

In the midst of this, the couple is working with their son to learn his school lessons online.

Holly gets that the state labor department has been overwhelmed with several hundred thousand Tennesseans filing for unemployment. She knows there are so many like her who have had issues getting benefits.

“I understand everyone is having a difficult time. I understand they (the labor department) are flooded with phone calls and emails,” added Harper.

When asked how many places she’s contacted for work, Holly said “at 45.”

Jeff McCord, the state’s labor department commission said Tuesday he’s “pretty sure,” there will some new federal unemployment benefit to replace the extra $600 weekly, but “not sure how much.”

It can’t come soon enough for couples like Holly and Trey Harper.

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