Jobless in Tennessee during the holidays: ‘like a punch in the stomach’

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As the state’s unemployment numbers dipped again this week, nearly three times as many Tennesseans remain jobless compared to when the pandemic began.

Many of those out of work ask if there is any more help for them as they head into the Christmas season.

“It’s like a punch in the stomach, we are trying to be creative,” Timothy Conway told News 2.

Conway was furloughed from his job as a safety executive with a Middle Tennessee tour bus company in March. The business shut down because of COVID-19 brought much of the entertainment and transportation industry to a screeching halt.

Its only now picking up speed, but the tour bus safety director remains furloughed.

“Desperate times need desperate measures,” said Conway. “People need help. They are not just about to take care of this- just by themselves right now.”

$275-dollars a week in Tennessee unemployment does not go very far for Timothy or tens of thousands other Tennesseans who have survived on it for months, but some have also gotten temporary jobless benefits from Washington that run out the day after Christmas.

“Do you see Washington coming down…with any more money?” asked Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton Wednesday at Governor Bill Lee’s financial stimulus group.

The administration’s financial people could only guess if another package includes immediate help for those out of work.

“Definitely stay tuned,” said the state’s finance commissioner Butch Ely. “I think there’ll be a lot going on in the coming weeks.”

People like Timothy Conway certainly hope so. He can only watch and wonder as Congressional Democrats and Republicans wrestle with a potential federal stimulus package.

How much help that would immediately get to Conway and tens of thousands of other Tennesseans still out of work because of COVID remains a question as they head into a holiday season like no other.

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