COVID-19 UPDATE: Because the coronavirus pandemic has left so many Americans jobless, the federal government has given states more flexibility in granting unemployment benefits. You’ll need to apply for these benefits through your state’s unemployment insurance program, but if you have questions about whether you’re eligible for benefits read our COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits and Insurance FAQ. Also, before submitting a claim in Tennessee, be sure to check out Tennessee’s claimant handbook.
Tennessee Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility
Unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in Tennessee are administered by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The program assists unemployed individuals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Benefits are funded by employers who pay into the Tennessee Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, and a person’s eligibility to receive those benefits is based on Tennessee’s Employment Security Law.
To qualify, you must be able and available to work, conduct an ongoing job search effort each week while certifying for unemployment insurance benefits, and they must have been separated from their most recent employment for a non-disqualifying reason.
Here’s a quick overview of how the unemployment insurance process works in Tennessee.
1. Before you apply, make sure you meet all benefit requirements. You must meet all requirements to be eligible to collect unemployment insurance in Tennessee. This includes determining that you have earned enough wages during your base period, that you became unemployed through no fault of your own, and that you are ready, able, and willing to accept a suitable job offer.
2. Gather the necessary documents and information. Before you file a claim, you will need to gather some information to complete your application:
- Social Security number
- Driver’s License number
- Telephone number
- Valid email address
- Banking information if you choose to receive benefits via direct deposit
- Your DD214 Member 4 if you served in the military in the past 18 months
- Details on your last 18 months of employment
- Last day worked
- Reason for separation from your last employer
- Your employer’s information: name, address, and phone number
3. Once you meet all benefit requirements and have your information ready, you can apply for unemployment insurance. To apply you must submit a claim application online.
4. Decide how you want to be paid. You can receive benefits by having funds uploaded to a debit card or by choosing to have funds deposited directly into your checking or savings account.
5. Wait for your determination letter. After you apply, you’ll receive a determination letter in the mail detailing your weekly Tennessee unemployment amount. You are eligible to receive up to $275 per week for 26 weeks (or six months) under current state benefit policies.
6. Conduct an ongoing job search. You are required to conduct at least three job search activities each week you claim benefits. Falsifying this information could cause you to lose benefits for eight weeks.
7. You can file an appeal if you are denied benefits. If you are denied benefits, you can appeal the decision within 15 days of the mailing date.
To file an initial unemployment insurance benefits claim, you must apply online.
Tennessee offers very limited phone support for claims filing. You can call the customer service line at 844-224-5818, but you should expect long wait times.
After you file an initial claim
You can complete your weekly certification for unemployment insurance benefits online. The Jobs4TN portal is available 24 hours a day. While unemployed, you will need to certify each week—beginning the week after you filed your initial claim.
If you delay the process, your benefits could be delayed or denied.
If you need assistance with your weekly certification, you can use the live chat feature on the Workforce and Labor Development Department’s website or call the customer service line at 844-224-5818 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (Monday through Friday).
What are the requirements to qualify for unemployment benefits in Tennessee?
To be eligible to receive benefits initially and on an ongoing basis in Tennessee, you must meet all requirements:
- You must be totally or partially unemployed through no fault of your own.
- You must have been paid sufficient qualifying wages during your base period.
- You must certify for benefits every week beginning with the week after you file your initial unemployment claim. This involves answering questions by telephone every week about the prior calendar week.
- Claimants must make a reasonable effort to find work while claiming benefits. You will be required to provide detailed information regarding your search, which must take place with at least three employers per week. Failing to conduct at least three work searches will cause you to lose your benefits unless you’re job attached, a member of a hiring union, or attending approved training.
- You must report any change of address or contact information in a timely manner. All correspondence and phone notices are made to the contact information on file.
- You must respond to written notices or telephone calls in a timely manner from agency representatives.
- If you start collecting a pension, you must report that information to the agency immediately since some types of pensions are deductible from UI benefits.
- You must report gross wages from any work you perform while claiming benefits. To avoid overpayments, you will need to report earnings during the week you earned them and not when you are actually paid.
- Your first week after filing an initial claim that is approved and monetarily eligible is called a waiting week. You must file weekly certifications for four consecutive weeks, meet all eligibility requirements, and not equal or exceed the weekly benefit amount in order to be paid for the waiting week.
Why you might be disqualified from receiving benefits
- Voluntarily quitting without a good reason
- Harassment or being asked to perform illegal activities could still allow you to collect benefits.
- Voluntarily moving to another location
- Failing to earn enough qualifying wages
- Lack of transportation
- Lack of childcare
- Quitting to take care of a friend or relative
- Quitting so that you can attend school
- Routine change in work hours
- Unable to get along with other employees
- Discharged for misconduct such as excessive tardiness or absenteeism
- Intentional violation of company rules
- Accepting bribes
- Inflicting bodily harm on another employee
- Disclosure of confidential information
- Failure to accept a referral for work, or not accepting available and suitable work
- Receiving unemployment benefits from another state while drawing or attempting to draw unemployment benefits from the state of Tennessee
- Failing to make at least three valid work searches each week
- You may lose benefits for eight weeks if you provide false work search information.
What if I’m denied benefits?
If you are denied benefits, you will receive a written notification. You have the right to appeal this decision within 15 calendar days from the date the notice was mailed. You can file an appeal by mail, fax, or online:
Appeals Tribunal, Dept of Labor and Workforce Development,
220 French Landing Drive
Nashville, Tennessee 37243-1002
Fax: 615-741- 8933
Log in to your claims center at Jobs4TN.gov and go to My Dashboard > More Unemployment Services > Appeals.
You must certify weekly to remain eligible for benefits during the weeks you file an appeal in case it results in approval.
You may be represented by an attorney or assisted by any other representative you choose when filing an appeal. If you cannot afford an attorney, free or low cost legal assistance may be available through your local legal services organization or bar association.
Do I have to look for a job to get Tennessee unemployment benefits?
You must conduct a minimum of three job search activities per week to remain eligible to receive benefits. These activities can include filling out a job application, attending a workshop, making contact with an employer, attending a job fair, and other related activities.
You should also seek job search help at any one of the 95 local American Job Centers throughout Tennessee. You can look online to find the nearest location.
How much will I be paid?
To determine a weekly benefit amount on an initial unemployment claim, wage amounts are reviewed for a time frame called a Standard Base Period. This period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the date your initial claim is filed. The base period changes on the Sunday of the first complete calendar week of the new quarter.
To receive benefits you must have earned a minimum of $780.01 in each of two quarters during your Standard Base Period. If you’ve met this requirement, then your wages earned will be used to calculate your weekly benefit amount.
The maximum amount of benefits you may be eligible to receive in your benefit year is either 26 times your weekly benefit amount (WBA) or one-fourth of your base period wages—whichever amount is less will be used for your claim. To be eligible for benefits, you must have base period wages outside the highest quarter of your base period of at least six times your WBA or $900.
If you worked in Tennessee during your base period but moved to another state, you may be able to claim benefits for those wages earned in Tennessee. If you worked in another state during the base period, but moved to Tennessee, you may file a claim for benefits from another state. In some cases your wages from two or more states may be combined to establish an eligible claim for benefits.
Eligible claimants may receive up to $275 per week for a maximum of 26 weeks of unemployment insurance per year.
Based on your wages, you will be mailed a determination letter explaining the amount and duration of your benefits.
How will I be paid?
Tennessee unemployment insurance beneficiaries receive benefits through a Way2Go Card debit card (from MasterCard) or by having funds directly deposited into their personal checking or savings accounts.
Claimants can enroll for debit cards or direct deposit payments online during the application process. Go to “View/Update Payment Information” to select the method of benefit payment.
If you choose to receive benefits via a debit card, it will arrive in a plain window envelope. Once the debit card is issued, it is valid for two years and you should keep it until the expiration date for payments on your current and possible future claims. As soon as you receive the card, use the Way2Go Card mobile app or call 855-462-5887 to activate it. Also use this phone number if you have any problems with your debit card.
For more information
For assistance with your claim or weekly certification, call 844-224-5818 or click the Help button at the bottom of the Labor and Workforce Development Department’s website to open the live chat function.
For general information on Tennessee Unemployment Insurance benefits, visit the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development website.