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Federal Unemployment Benefits Extension Provides Benefits to About 30,000 Tennesseans

Press release from the Department of Labor & Workforce Development; January 3, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – The American Taxpayer Relief Act, which became law late Wednesday, extends the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC08) program through January 1, 2014. The federal benefits were slated to expire at the end of 2012 with claimants receiving their last payment the first week of January.

EUC08 is a federally-funded program providing unemployment benefits to approximately 30,000 Tennesseans who have exhausted the first 26 weeks of state benefits (maximum). The legislation only extends the deadline to receive existing federal benefits and does not add additional weeks. Tennessee claimants are currently allowed a maximum of 26 weeks of state benefits and an additional 37 weeks of federal benefits.

“This has been an uncertain time for those depending on unemployment benefits,” said Labor Commissioner Karla Davis. “I would encourage claimants to focus their job search by using our jobs database at Jobs4tn.gov and visiting a Tennessee Career Center.”

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development must still receive authorization from the USDOL to pay federal EUC08 claims. While the USDOL expects to have authorizations in place to provide a seamless transition, a delay of a week or more is possible. A retroactive payment would then be made to make up for lost weeks before resuming regular weekly payments.

Those presently receiving federal benefits should continue their weekly certification that notifies the department by phone or Internet they are still unemployed. If claimants stop their certification, they will have to contact the claims center to verify their unemployment status and could face a delay in their benefit resumption. Claimants should also continue to complete at least two work searches per week in order to meet the requirements for receiving federal benefits.

Claimants can check the status of their unemployment benefit deposit by logging in to https://ui.tn.gov with their personal identification number. If their account shows the benefit amount is “released,” the deposit will be available within 48 hours.

Additional updates will be provided on the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development website at http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/2012_Unemployment_Update2.shtml.

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TN to Allow Benefits for Military Spouses Unemployed Due to Post Transfers

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development; August 10, 2012: 

Tennessee Becomes 40th State to Allow Benefits for Trailing Spouses

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development Karla Davis is announcing changes to unemployment laws that allow a spouse of military personnel facing a military transfer to collect unemployment benefits if they quit their job. In most cases voluntarily quitting a job makes an applicant ineligible for unemployment benefits.

“This expansion of eligibility for unemployment is the right thing to do in supporting Tennessee’s military families whom are often affected by military transfers,” said Labor Commissioner Karla Davis. “Lawmakers and the Governor have created this temporary assistance and protected employers from additional tax burdens, which is ideal for everyone involved.” Typically employers pay higher taxes when they lay off a worker and unemployment insurance is approved.

The bill that was sponsored by Senator Tim Barnes and state Representative Joe Pitts of Clarksville was signed by Governor Haslam in April, but $278,800 in appropriations for the measure became available to claimants in July.

“The Governor’s support of this bill shows that Tennesseans truly care about our military families,” State Representative Joe Pitts said. “This is a tangible way to show our support and gratitude to our veterans, and I’m humbled to have the opportunity to do so.”

“With the passage of unemployment benefits for military spouses, Tennessee became the twelfth state in the nation to attain all of the Department of Defense’s desired outcomes regarding military spouses,” said Sen. Barnes. “I am proud that Tennessee is leading the way in showing how our military families should be treated.”

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development projects more than 70 families could take advantage of the benefits during this fiscal year. Funding for these benefits is paid from the state’s General Fund rather than from the state’s unemployment trust fund.

The only exception to the new eligibility laws are assignments outside the United States, Canada, or any United States territory. Federal law prohibits the payment of unemployment benefits to claimants outside these areas.

Claims can be filed on the Internet at www.tn.gov/labor-wfd or by the phone. A dedicated phone line has been established to take initial claims for military spouses. The number is 1-866-331-1271 ext 7590.

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Ramsey Touts Accomplishments Under Republican-Controlled State Government

Statement by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; May 18, 2012:

Dear Friend,

Earlier this month, the 107th General Assembly concluded its business.

My goals for this legislature were the same ones I had when first elected: give the people of Tennessee what they have asked for: more jobs, less spending and smaller government.

Now, with partners like Governor Bill Haslam and Speaker Beth Harwell, we have truly been moving the conservative ball forward. I have often said that it matters who governs. Over the past two years, we have proved why.

In our first year of unified Republican government, we put conservative principles into action by instituting landmark education reform, tax cuts and smaller government.

This year we again heeded the call of voters to make government smaller, more efficient and customer friendly. These are things I have championed throughout my career in the legislature.  But now, with a Republican Governor and Speaker of the House, we have become a transformational force for good government in Tennessee.

Representing the People

This General Assembly worked diligently and efficiently to get our work done on time – adjourning earlier than at any point in the last 14 years and using the least amount of legislative days since 1984.

This achievement not only saves considerable taxpayer dollars it restores the great virtues of our citizen legislature. To those who have only observed Tennessee politics for the last few decades it might appear the legislature got out “early” by adjourning in early May. This is a common misconception I intend to erase. We got out on time. Period.

Tennessee does not have a full-time legislature and, if I have anything to do with it, we never will. By allowing session to drag on into June or July year after year our Democrat predecessors succeeded only in creating more government and allowing the people’s representatives to get farther and farther away from their constituents. It is almost impossible to represent people with whom you are only tangentially connected or a community in which you only nominally reside.

Legislators should do the business the people ask of them in Nashville – and get back home. The cause of small, efficient and responsive government requires it.

Shrinking government and cutting taxes

This year, the state of Tennessee is budgeted to spend $31.1 billion – nearly $1 billion less than our current operating budget. These are real cuts, not the phantom cuts of Washington where removing anticipated increases in spending counts as a cut.

Tennessee budgeted conservatively this year. We worked with revenue that we actually had rather than “projected” revenue we “expected” to have. We balanced this budget much like you and your family balance your own. Unified Republican government did away with the gimmicky accounting of the past and relied on tangible revenue numbers.

Not only did we shrink government, we returned money to the taxpayers. We gave every Tennessean tax relief by again reducing the food tax – reductions previous Democrat regimes refused to make.

We also set a course for the ultimate elimination of the death tax – a tax that punishes small farmers and businessmen seeking to provide for the next generation.

Tennessee plunged a stake into the heart of this insidious tax that attacks the very essence of the American Dream. Unlike Washington, Tennessee plans for the future and encourages those in our citizenry to do likewise. I am proud that this General Assembly was the one that finally brought the death tax before the reaper.

Coupled with the elimination of the gift tax, this General Assembly cut taxes by more than $50 million this year, resulting in the release of capital and the creation of jobs.

Tennessee Republicans used to be limited in what we could do. Operating under a Democrat Governor and House Speaker, my office had to play defense against Big Government Democrats leaving across the board conservative governance as merely a dream for some future place and time. That place is here and that time is now.

Now, we have the numbers to enact our conservative principles. And with your help we will enlarge our majority so that no one stands in the way of true conservative government ever again.

Reforming State Government

One of our most transformative legislative achievements this session was the passage of Gov. Haslam’s TEAM Act. A revolutionary step in state government, the TEAM Act will help us attract, retain and promote the best applicants and employees in state government. Excellence will now be rewarded when it is achieved, just as it is in the private sector.

This year also marked the passage of our major unemployment insurance reform. Republicans heard the clamor and saw the need for legislation that results in job creation and we filled the void.

The Unemployment Accountability Act of 2012 strengthens the definition of employee misconduct to ensure that those who have been fired for cause no longer receive benefits. We instituted new work search requirements for unemployment beneficiaries, encouraging the use of existing state infrastructure to help return the unemployed to the job market.

Nothing cures both economic and social ills like a good job. Having a job doesn’t just fulfill a man or woman’s economic need but their spiritual need as well. It bestows upon them a sense of self-worth which permeates all aspects of life.

This reform will be a boon not only for job creators by protecting them from fraud and abuse – it also aids job seekers by pushing them towards the job market.

Another important piece of the Republican job creation package was our “loser pays” tort reform. Businesses don’t mind taking risks but they have to be calculated ones. “Loser pays” will free employers from the time and cash consuming drudgery of frivolous lawsuits and allow them to do what they do best: employ people.

The fight against addiction

This General Assembly has also taken on crime passing bills attacking domestic violence, criminal gangs and drugs.

Most important to me is the fight against synthetic drugs, which have become an epidemic in Northeast Tennessee. Many lives have been lost due to this scourge and I was proud to be part of the team fashioning a solution. Bills passed in this General Assembly banned chemical compounds used in illegal synthetic drugs, no matter how criminal chemists continue to modify them  Our new measure will keep the law ahead of the drug pushers.

We also began a program to drug test those receiving government assistance.  This will end the taxpayer subsidy of illegal drugs. We as a society are never going to prevent every motivated user from consuming drugs – but we certainly don’t have to pay for it.

This is why we constructed a constitutionally sound bill that will allow us to remove drug users from the welfare rolls while offering them help. This protects taxpayers and attacks addiction. It is a win-win for Tennessee.

Protecting citizenship

While we continue to implement our new Photo ID law protecting citizenship at the ballot box, we have taken further steps to protect the rights of citizens.

While I’m a conservative who believes in personal responsibly and limited government, we as a society do need to provide some sort of safety net.  However, that net must be for citizens only. That is why I aided passage this session of the Eligibility Verification Act.  It ensures that only those in the United States legally receive any taxpayer-funded benefit.

Again, this is common sense but it was left undone by our Democrat predecessors.

Tax cuts, smaller government and job creation – this is conservative government in action. It is what Tennesseans asked for and it is what Tennessee shall get as long as you allow me to serve as Lt. Governor.

I humbly appreciate the support of all Tennesseans as the legislature continues to work hard to make Tennessee the best state in the nation in which to live, work and raise a family.

Sincerely,

Ronald L. Ramsey

Lieutenant Governor

Speaker of the Senate

 

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Lawmakers Consider Stronger Monitoring of Unemployment Recipients

After lots of talk last year about problems within the state unemployment system, Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly are ready to push legislation requiring that people collecting benefits be more accountable for their work searches.

“When you’re on employment, you’re supposed to be looking for a job, and right now it’s more or less the honor system,” said Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin. He is sponsoring a bill to make unemployment-benefits recipients keep track of where they submit applications each week and provide that information to the state online.

The proposal is meant to ensure people don’t draw unemployment any longer than necessary, he said.

“The burden should be on the applicant because that’s the condition upon receiving your benefits, is that you be looking for a job,” said Lt, Gov. Ron Ramsey. “Anecdotally, we’re pretty confident there’s a lot of folks who aren’t doing that. They’re just sitting at home collecting their benefits.”

Republicans met with Tennessee employers during a series of legislative jobs task force meetings in 2011, as well as part of Ramsey’s Red Tape Road Tour in 2011.

There are three overlapping proposals in the works, including the “Unemployment Insurance Accountability Act of 2012,” which would require people collecting benefits to submit on a weekly basis the names of three employers where he or she sought work.

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters he’s a fan of the unemployment insurance reforms, although admitted his staff still needs to research the price tax first.

“I think the direction that Lt. Gov. Ramsey is going is 100 percent right,“ Haslam said after commemorating Andrew Jackson’s 245th birthday at the Hermitage Thursday. “I told him I would do our homework with our departments to try to understand cost to state government, impact and we’d be back to weigh in on that probably next week.”

The central piece of legislation, HB3431, would also charge the Department of Labor and Workforce Development with auditing 1,000 submissions a week and kick anyone submitting fraudulent job search reports off the rolls for at least eight weeks, redefine “misconduct” that disqualifies workers from benefits and ban people who are incarcerated from collecting unemployment while behind bars.

A yet-to-be-added amendment would further change the unemployment law to set wage standards for jobs that are deemed “suitable” for unemployed workers to accept.

The measure passed a House subcommittee Wednesday, and heads to the Consumer Affairs committee Tuesday, March 20. The bill stands now with a $122,000 price tag, but would save an extra $100,000 annually for the Unemployment Trust Fund, according to state officials.

Unemployment changes didn’t make the cut in a House Republican jobs task force that met last fall, but task force chair and bill sponsor Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir, said those meetings contributed to his desire to edit the system.

“We understand there are people who do need this. We’re not taking this away,” Matlock said about unemployment benefits. “We’re looking for legitimate folks who need it.”

Another bill he and Johnson are sponsoring, SB3657, would allow employers to ask the department to classify them as seasonal employers. The measure would limit how much seasonal employees can collect in unemployment benefits, saving the state an estimated $2.2 million annually — although it would cost over $1 million in one-time startup costs. The measure has collected dust in House and Senate committees for weeks but is expected to move later this month.

SB3659 would require the state to build a portal for employers to send and receive information about employees who have quit, were laid off or fired. It would also allow employers to contest former workers’ benefits online.

However, the governor flagged that bill last month based on concerns about its price tag, $115,000. House lawmakers are sending this bill to the Finance Committee, although it awaits a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee.