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Governor Lee: State will extend unemployment benefits to self-employed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) —Governor Bill Lee received backlash after FOX 17 News reporters questioned him about unemployment benefits for self employed workers. Originally, he said he was undecided if Tennessee would follow federal guidelines to give self employed workers those benefits.

Now, he’s saying the state will.

“I just wanted to make sure he understood the severity and gravity of what he was saying,” State Senator Raumesh Akbari said.

State Senator Akbari understands how many self employed people are hurting in our state. It’s why she immediately voiced concern.

“They don’t have the safety net of a larger company to support them, so I was hoping maybe this is an initial reaction and then of course, will change course,” Sen. Akbari said.

She was right. Twenty-four hours later, Gov. Lee made it clear the state would be following federal guidelines that extend unemployment benefits to self-employed people through pandemic unemployment assistance.

“Self-employed Tennesseans need this assistance. We’re working with the federal government to make sure that they get it. We are hopeful for a quick resolution to this,” Governor Lee said.

One of the people hoping “quick resolution” is right is wedding photographer Krista Newbill.

“It’s been like nothing I’ve ever imagined. We had a lot of weddings on the books, a lot of corporate jobs and they’re all completely gone,” Newbill said.

She applied multiple times for unemployment and was denied multiple times. Now, the state explains they’ll go back and review claims like hers under this new guidance.

“We understand that time is of the essence, we feel a huge weight and a huge sense of urgency to the department to get these funds out to Tennesseans,” Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Jeff McCord said.

It’s a reassuring statement that the self-employed they won’t be left behind. While they’re moving as quickly as possible, it’s important to note in the past three weeks, they’ve had 25 times more first time claims than any normal three week period.

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