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Lawsuit seeks to reinstate federal unemployment benefits in Tennessee

Jon Styf
The Center Square

A lawsuit filed Friday in the Middle District of Tennessee is asking the court to intervene and allow Tennessee residents receiving unemployment benefits to again take part in the federal supplemental pandemic relief unemployment program.

Gov. Bill Lee

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a defendant in the case, ended the state’s participation in the federal unemployment program – which pays those on unemployment $300 additional weekly through Sept. 5 – on July 4. The other defendant is Jeff McCord, Commissioner of Tennessee’s Department of Labor & Workforce Development.
The lawsuit, filed by Nashville attorney Gary Blackburn on behalf of seven citizens and a potential class that includes all Tennesseans on unemployment, says that “Because of the termination of PUA, PEUC and FPUC benefits, Plaintiffs are facing extreme hardships, such as an inability to pay for basic living expenses such as housing, utilities, food, health care, and childcare.”
Tennessee is one of 26 states whose governor elected to discontinue participation in the federal supplemental unemployment program. Many of those are states with Republican governors, though Louisiana is also joining that group on July 31 and has a Democratic governor.
When Lee was asked last week if he would consider reinstating the benefits, he said, “I do not have any plans to make a change in that direction.”
“There are half the states in this country that have suspended that and they have done so because they, like we, have 250,000 open jobs and 100,000 unemployed,” Lee said. “There are job opportunities for people in every county and every city in the state and we need to make sure that we create an environment that moves people from unemployment to meaningful employment. And that decision will do just that.”
Similar lawsuits have also been filed in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas asking for relief on behalf of residents. Judges in Indiana and Maryland have ordered the state to re-start participation in the program pending the result of the cases.
“This program has served as a lifeline for thousands of Tennesseans who remain affected by the pandemic,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs have all been adversely affected by the termination of the programs, and therefore file this complaint for declaratory judgment and for injunctive relief.”
A report from the U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee says Tennessee will miss out on $486 million going into its local economy due to dropping out of the program early. That calculation included $302 million in supplemental unemployment payments that won’t go to Tennessee residents.
The lawsuit does not name the Tennessee residents who the complaint was filed on behalf, but instead it uses their initials with details of each case.
The plaintiffs are from Shelby, Carter, Anderson, Williamson, Davidson and Knox counties.
According to the lawsuit, one lost her job after being diagnosed with COVID-19; another has a 12-year-old son diagnosed with cancer and cannot return to the workforce; a third applied for 200 jobs without any response; a fourth has received few responses from 200 resumes sent out after her company closed in December 2020.
Several complainants also referenced having child-care issues and having difficulty finding work that was possible along with child-care responsibilities.
“Plaintiffs are facing extreme hardships, such as an inability to pay for basic living expenses such as housing, utilities, food, health care, and childcare,” the lawsuit stated.


  1. James on July 28, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    They wouldn’t have need the extra money if they’d just get a job everywhere is hiring yeah it may not be a career but it will cover the bills better than sitting on their butts begging for money like they are

    • Damitria Tate on August 2, 2021 at 6:11 am

      You should be ashamed of yourself James…. Until you have lived in poverty, maybe you should keep your mouth shut… you don’t know what people life situations are. Cause it’s ran by people that think like you.

      • Rebecca cupplesWe need our unemployment benefits on August 8, 2021 at 11:36 am

        We need our unemployment benefits. We have worked all our life q
        We are 70. And 68 thanks another governor lee enjoy your easy easy.

        • Leigh Owen on September 5, 2021 at 3:06 am

          Our gov. doesn’t worry about how his bill getting paid because its us that pays his bills and it waa the people that voted for him is reason he has a job. Damn good job. Bet he wouldn’t take a job that paid him less. Now we back to pandemic and we worse off now more than ever.

      • Trish on August 12, 2021 at 9:13 am

        Thank you become because of covid 19I lost my home that I struggled to keep anywayI’m still living in a truck trying my best to get a job I’ve been to over 300 interviews even tried to get a job out of town when I show up they say the position still but it’s still posted on jobs for Tennessee thank you for speaking up

      • Kevin on August 14, 2021 at 6:48 pm

        Thanks, Damitria. I normally would be against this too if I did not experience it myself. I lost my job in March and took forever to get approved. Then they just cut it off. The maximum amount of $ 275 they will give does not even match inflation.

        I have looked and look for work and to have someone tell me that I am sitting on my butt begging for money is trash. I hope they end up jobless so they can see how it feels.

        I normally agree with Lee, but not on this. He was listening to high-end companies complain. He should have talked to his constituents.

      • Stacy Roark on August 15, 2021 at 5:29 pm

        I’d say he hasn’t lived in poverty Damitra. He couldn’t wear my shoes the last 3 months. I hope it’s just a battle gods putting me through right now cause I’m down on ground an have been getting kicked by all the places saying they can help. Please Lord help mine

    • Vivian Mahoney on August 8, 2021 at 4:27 am

      Not everyone can take or do every job that is out there advertising for hire. I am 82.5 yrs of age and do not ever intend to retire. However after 35 years in a Healthcare profession that I was able 2 prepare for my older age 28 years ago working on a national basis as a certified continuing education provider in my field, due to covid the money is just not there. The professionals that I work with have been out of work and many have quit the business and those that do work work with fear of the covid but take the chance anyway and makes a little they cannot afford my services at this time. Just about the time we thought it was going to end it’s starting all over again. And because not only were we cut off from the federal $300 but they cut the state money out as well. So here I am left suddenly without a dime coming in. All the money that I received due to unemployment and the stimulus checks was pulling me up and out of nearly Financial ruin to a Level Playing Field and now I see nothing but rock bottom. And by the way most of the jobs advertised where in cities many, many miles away and most of them were jobs that there was no way that I could do in the first place like driving trucks, technology base jobs oh, I could go on for an hour on this subject. I never failed to look at anything.

    • Jch on August 11, 2021 at 11:25 am

      Let me explain this to you. I’ve been trying to find work. I’ve never stopped looking. I’ve filed application after application. If you aren’t out there in it you have no idea. I’ve been told I’m over qualified and told they are waiting to see what the delta variant does. They are afraid of another epidemic. If you have a job I applaud you. I really don’t see how this is your chance to be judgemental.

    • H F on August 13, 2021 at 7:26 am

      3 days a week at 7.25 per hour will do no such thing. We WANT to work for A LIVING not a pittance. Your wages would go up if those min wages were raised. Im baffled at how hateful ppl are toward these issues that effect their own interests. This pandemic is real no matter how u feel about it.

    • Chump on August 19, 2021 at 1:05 am

      It funny how Republicans mostly talk about their rights and Americans have right that government can’t infringe upon.
      And they also say making kid where mast is against our rights.
      But Republicans are hypocrites when they are stealing tax dollars that was issued and voted on to be sent and used for people’s kids and parents and grandparents in this world wide emergency to keep a safe quality of life that also an American right. Republicans also passed laws taking Americans parents rights to choose to keep their kids in virtual class or send them to school.while knowing kids 12 years and younger can’t be vaccinated. But Republicans make it a big issue about Americans right to not where a masks and forcing schools to not enforce mask to be mandatory for kids in school . While these Republican leaders know all to well that any child 12 and young has one option of any sort of protection a mask to stop the spread. So force parents to work jobs that won’t pay all there bills. Force our children back to Schools unvaccinated and not make them protect our 12 and younger by wearing a mask. All while stealing 2 months of emergency issued funding that was sent and received by Republican governors. And you can’t see that the only political party ignorantly ignoring all our right except your right to where or not where a mask.
      Then you and all other coolaid drinking cult falling Republicans are truly lost brain washed sheeple that will be the direct result of Americans rights and democracy of free people to fall and fade away under a republican dictatorship. The governors are already acting as tyrannical dictators to the state they swore to protect and provide our rights to a safe quality of life . Makes me sick that my republican party has become the worst political party that is trying to destroy our right and our country. Fake leaders all of them

  2. Chris Tipton on July 28, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    I think it was ridiculous that our governor cut these people off of income that not only helps the one receiving unemployment but also helps TN as a whole where do you think the money will be going when they spend it, back into TN businesses, I agree there probably is a handful of people milking the unemployment system when they are just lazy yes , but for the most part people on unemployment are in it because they can not work rite now or have not found work yet, yes there are lots of jobs but they are low paying restaurant jobs, a single parent with say 2-3 children can not take a restaurant job paying 10 an hour and also pay childcare plus her bills, what is it so hard for our governor to see this, a job will hire you and fire you the next day because of a daycare need. It’s ridiculous. And it’s 300 a week that barely pays anything but it will keep lights on and buy food or medicine . TN needs to get straight and help it’s people rather than hurt them. Restart the unemployment. The unemployment money was given to TN for that purpose to help people who are affected by covid-19, give it to them.

    • Roy Griffin on July 29, 2021 at 7:20 pm

      TN needs to reinstate the unemployment for those of us who can’t find a job that pays a livable wage plus this virus isn’t gone like everyone seems to think in fact it got worse since even with a vaccine u can still catch n pass it to others who aren’t vaccinated so just because someone isn’t working doesn’t make them lazy maybe they are trying to protect and take care of their family besides the government voted these benefits into law which means going against something that the Senate White House and others voted into law is the same as breaking the law so give us the money the government voted for us to have

      • Christopher Lambraia on August 19, 2021 at 1:31 am

        Your correct we paid those taxes. while they dodge taxes and pay little or nothing in taxes. Just like we the people and our military people have faught and died for country they dodge draft and send us to die so they can rob our family that paying taxes. That exactly why they have no remorse watching us die because of a direct result of their traitorist leadship ,they’re draft dodging tax evading yellow belly cowards get fatter and richer off ou suffering.

    • Jenn Kelly on August 1, 2021 at 3:05 pm

      You’re so right too. A waitress job making a whopping $2.13 per hour is absolutely ridiculous. Who can live under that pay rate? Would the ones cutting us off live with nothing and I do mean not a single dime coming I. To feed, clothe, house, transport, or anything else for their families? What would they do? Rob? Steal? Plot on their neighbors? Turn to crime like some? I’d really like to hear what their plan would be? Would they grab their tent and live with their children cause they e been evicted? It’s NOT fair simply cause it’s NOT HAPPENING TO THEM!!!! It’s immoral and unethical to think that we should live without a penny coming in to support our AMERICAN FAMILIES!!! Hence… in my personal opinion THEY DO NOT CARE WHAT WE GO THROUGH ON A DAILY BASIS SIMPLY CAUSE THWY HAVENT LOST A DAY OF SALARY. IF THEY WOULD CUT THEIR MONEY FLOW OFF TODAY… WHAT ON GODS GREEN EARTH WOULD THEY DO ABOUT IT?? What if they had a hard time getting a job due to which family they were born into? Or been to prison? Whatever the situation is, I bet they couldn’t pull what they’ve made Americans do to survive. This crisis should’ve opened their eyes to hardship!! Instead it’s made them cold hearted and obscenely slow at getting rightful and deserved payments back into the hands of those on PUA. I wish they had to deal with starving children, eviction notices, and no money to even try to figure out a plan of recourse. This should show us majority that they DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE MAJORITY WHATSOEVER. THAT THEY NEED FLUSHED OUT IF OFFICE FOR GOOD AND THAT THIS COUNTRY NEEDS REVAMPED. ALL NEW SENATORS REPRESENTATIVES EVERYONE NEW!!! For those holding office, they really need to lower themselves and come live among us with no absolutely nothing coming in to the household. Then maybe we’d see some compassion. But I strongly doubt it then too. Smmfh. This country is the absolute worst.

      • Jean Fearnow on August 6, 2021 at 2:54 pm

        People are not tipping anymore. Door dash pays $2.50 a delivery. No tip, so you make $0 after gas and car expenses.

    • Tammy Haynes on August 5, 2021 at 4:25 pm

      This Governor is no good

      • Tennessee old overholt whiskey on August 7, 2021 at 8:25 am

        This governor along with the other ones ending the federal unemployment early say they are for independence and freedom of choice. Why are they taking away our freedoms and independence and forcing us to either risk getting covid-19 or sit home taking care of children until the crumbs run out! There was no reason to end this except for his business buddies complaining they can’t find 8.00 dollar a hour employees to risk their lives during a viral outbreak so he can pad his bank account. While I’m a American and Pro-Trump supporter these actions are nothing short of what the Beijing Biden occupying Regime is doing to America now.

      • Christopher on August 19, 2021 at 1:35 am

        Recall governor lee he has failed to do the job we elected him for he need to step down. He is hurting and killing more people the Cuomo and we made him resigne. What’s good for the goose good for the gander. Then he can get out there and look for a job that pays slave labor wages. I would love nothing more than to witness that . See how he feels then

    • Lori on August 8, 2021 at 11:51 pm

      We’ve always taught our children about consequences and choices. When you’re an adult you have the privilege of making mindful ones because only you will live with the consequences. You are NOT someone else’s problem. Choose wisely.

    • Christopher on August 19, 2021 at 1:17 am

      Well said we are see what governors and whitch politicians are ignoring and destroying our rights our kids and our country. As they talk like idiots about a mask violating people’s right but it ok hat they are starving the own people and watching them loose everything they work hard for their entire lives. They are the violators they are the hypocrites they are the ones destroying our quality of life . All while pointing their fingers away from their traitorist actions against humanity and Americans and country traitors.

  3. denise hudson on July 28, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    Trying to get job 60yrs old cut off of unemployment on July 3health problem no income coming in no one is cslling me or emailing me back August I will loose everything house car utility phone everything this is what it was used for I’m from Tennessee.

    • Whiskey dick on August 7, 2021 at 8:29 am

      Same here. I refuse to take the experimental vaccine and now I’m being forced to go out into the public and risk becoming another part of the growing death count from this china virus. Republicans only care about freedom when it’s not hurting their own bottom lines.

  4. Tony h on July 30, 2021 at 3:34 am

    I think that people need the fed money and unemployment Tennessee and the other states that cut
    It out was wrong unemployment money didn’t keep everyone home and not looking for jobs it’s jobs not wanting to pay anything for good help im a single dad trying to take care of two kids and I make $15 an hour that still isn’t great money to raise kids and pay bills $300 a week can’t pay bills and raise a family these Governors act like it’s coming from there pockets when it’s Americans money in the first place we pay the taxes to earn the right to get unemployment if we need it government is low down and screws people daily not help us we need real caring people in offices across the USA not the old lying crooks in our government now change people we won’t help our own people here in USA but we can people all over the world that’s not right

  5. Casey on July 31, 2021 at 12:20 am

    Exactly right is Tennesseans have worked and earned that money for a day like this when we all needed it and he’ll yea the government is acting like it is coming straight from them like we are taking food from there family’s mouths. But do they care to take from ours why hell no yes they give it to us at first then take it away like a bunch of crooks I think they need to walk a day in our shoes and see that 15 dollars ain’t shit an hour when u got a family let them see how hard it is because they don’t know and never will because they don’t know anyone personally that is going through what we are because they are all walking around with fat ass pockets and guess who made there pockets fat all us Americans and they don’t even care enough But to say yeah we’re taking it back because they are so greedy want it for there spending and family but I say screw that if you guys can’t take the time away from all your parties and spending money to really look at the big picture and care that all of us the struggling Tennessee people need there help calling out for it but they just want to look good on tv and act like they care bunch of fake ass people all they are

  6. Angela Cox on July 31, 2021 at 1:33 am

    I was trying get bk work and was 2 days a week and poof u take what was keeping bills manageable my unemployment and that was 34.00 ya plus the fed help so how can one man speak for all and stop what I’ve worked for for 50 plus yrs..

  7. Denise on July 31, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    This is sad when you trying to find work and disable applied for disability it take awhile before you hear from them was getting the unemplyment it stopped I have no income as of this month Tennessee Govenor up set because of Demacatic President and want to stop anything going out to the people it’s sad to have us to suffer because they can’t do anything about the President let the people go without

  8. steve on August 3, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    do you think gov. Bill Lee is going to loose his house, car. food . NO!!!!! He don’t care about anybody.

    • Lance on August 7, 2021 at 11:25 pm

      Steve your exactly rite… I can’t wait for re- election time his A** is definitely not getting my vote hopefully everyone else will vote against him too… It doesn’t effect him at all unless he has some crooked S**t going on getting kick back some way or the interest off the money I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t embezzlement charges filed they will find him out to be no good crook

      • H F on August 13, 2021 at 7:32 am

        Dunno if anyone looks into these elections but he will run unopposed. Unopposed! He thinks he is king of TN and him and Marsha Blackburn only care about 1. Reelection, 2. Anti abortion because that leads to reelection and 3. Keeping big businesses happy and bowing to your local chamber of commerce because those are who fund reelection.

  9. Kevin W Green on August 3, 2021 at 4:26 pm

    I blame it on the companies whining that they cannot find help, but every application I have turned in I have been denied. I also blame it on the people who have been sitting on their asses all year getting free money without really trying to find a job. There is a difference between workers and someone that let go from a job where they probably would have gotten fired from.

    I like this governor, but I hate this move. I hope the lawsuit goes through. Hell, Biden is going to ending the program anyway. hope to finally have a job because I cannot live off what I get for unemployment. I want to work.

    • Francene on August 4, 2021 at 4:02 pm

      I find it hilarious the nonsense our Governor is peddling. I’ve looked for comparable work since I lost employment when Covid hit us. I have gotten not a single call. Add to that, each week I recertified I was given no option to log my job search as it constantly said “administrative waiver”. I would love to go back to the level of income I was at prepandemic, I wouldn’t be struggling. As it is it took unemployment several weeks to start paying and then several months to address the back pay. Ny the time I started receiving pay I was living in a shed with no powet or running water due to having lost everything. I am still trying to get reestablished. We are barely scraping by and our governor, who hasn’t missed a meal, nearly frozen to death over christmas, or been hospitalized for dehydration and nearing reanal failure thinks he is doing a “good deed” by stripping our participation? He works for US! Clearly the people don’t agree and that should matter. I’m on the verge of losing everything AGAIN because of this. Really sorry I voted for this guy. He’s wholly out of touch. Might as well not run again Governor Lee, you made that a pointless effort doing what you have done to us.

      • H F on August 13, 2021 at 7:35 am

        He also made protesting illegal of sorts anddoes not work for you or I bc he gets paid be R’s and big business lobbyists and donors. National strike is the only way to get the boot off your neck and onto theirs.

  10. Chad Anthony Mcclain on August 4, 2021 at 7:52 am

    Remember this on election day. Remove Governor lee from power.

    • Christopher on August 19, 2021 at 2:24 am

      We need to recall or impeachment if anyone need that it’s all the Republican dictatorships. Calling them self an American governor not even close . They have all committed a traitorist dangerous act that has directly caused American suffering and oppression. This is unforgivable

  11. Charles on August 6, 2021 at 8:21 am

    I’m from Louisiana and our Governor is the only Democratic Governor who pulled the plug on the Federal assistance. He did this because the other side used a $25 raise to unemployment benefits begining January 2022. If he didn’t pull the plug they threatened to not give the raise.Guess what everyone on unemployment benefits now will not be eligible to get a check at that time because our benefits will be exhausted. I pray the judges in all states involved understand how much the federal funding helps. Also the Delta variant of Covid is worse than when Covid first hit the USA. We are seeing numbers of infected rise off the charts while our help goes away. Sounds backwards to me!

  12. michael hood TN on August 6, 2021 at 4:21 pm

    And they wonder why so many ppl are selling drugs right now smdh

  13. Amber on August 6, 2021 at 10:55 pm

    I think he should have left unemployment like it was my job was closed due to 10 people having covid we are back at work now but the last three weeks have been a struggle.. Maybe if the jobs that don’t hire felons would start hiring them I mean heck most have already done the time for the crime so give them a chance just maybe they wouldn’t have a labor shortage..

  14. Jeff N on August 9, 2021 at 3:02 am

    I’m a diabetic I have all 4 neuropathies and I’m 61 I think it’s a shame our governor he is as low down. I can’t find a job I was on unemployment an my legs do not work now as well as they did when the pandemic started now is the time not to make me go out I’m trying to find a job and catch the new Coronavirus now is the time 2 stand behind me and help me sa Jeff thanks for 37 years a working in a restaurant and I still cannot afford anyting and I’m depressed as ever there are so many stories out there but your governor along with the other Republican governors only want to hurt American people what’s wrong with them just the presidency seat mean more than the people how power hungry are they let’s keep it simple we all know they are wrong are y’all honestly going to vote for him again he’s a scumbag yes that’s what I said because he posed to be working for us and not against us I am going to sign off because my legs hurt too bad to talk about him being wrong had to get up off my couch and go catch Coronavirus when I can’t even walk may I please have my unemployment back

    • Jennifer keasler on August 17, 2021 at 1:29 am

      Reading these stories not only hits home but breaks my heart! Jeff M do not be depressed alone. Anyone on here who is sad or depressed or just needs a friend please reach out to me! Shoot me a message on Facebook anytime Jennifer Keasler-Rex. I genuinely mean that I would welcome every new friend and we will pray together.

  15. Don on August 10, 2021 at 3:51 am

    So I see comments that people are lazy is why they need it or milking it . Hmm to the people that say that heres a real life situation and put yourself in my shoes and I wish just one time you could live it you might change your mind. So im 37 I’ve worked at the same factory for 17 years well a virus hits everything shuts down and my little company of 12 ppl well it happens to go out of business so then that mean what ? Well ur in my shoes remember the lazy ones right 10 hrs a day same job 17 years I get approved for unemployment a huge $92 a week well take in account I owe $65 childsupport a week and if you know how the state adds that then you would know I have a job , So they take half which makes it then $46 a week for me and $46 a week to childsupport . Oh but remember I had a job that went out of business never gonna be there again. So now let’s get to the rest rent yea thats well $600 month cause I had good pay but thats gone so lost the home since it was stopped . Car well had to pawn all my titles to pay other bills and there behind cause it was cut off. Oh but I can post whatever evidence you need showing resumes and applications turned in with no answers why because at 18yrs old I was a felon but I’m 37 now never been in trouble again but wait they still want even acknowledge my apps ok. So do you like my shoes yet im just getting started . But ima stop there cause most you people saying lazy and this and that probly got family money born with a million trust fund or parents that get what you want but yea well I only got me. So don’t judge other ppl just because what you see on TV or the internet cause most the time it’s bull. But yeah I’ve lost it all and gotta start all over cause there cut off and nobody will give a chance to a felon remind you at 18 im 37 now same job 17 years so I suppose it’s my fault and I’m sure you’ll find some kinda rebuttle lol but you , me and everyone else knows what you are and could never walk a day in my shoes cause you’d give up and cry im just giving you a reality check it aint all lazy or users im sure there’s sum but the majority is the people like me that spends our money to keep our towns and state afloat.

  16. Chuck on August 10, 2021 at 10:42 pm

    Lee wants all of his rich friends to take advantage of all the desperate people needing a job at any wage! It’s the greedy Republican way!

    • H F on August 13, 2021 at 7:38 am

      Boom! Truth bomb just dropped!

  17. Stephanie on September 2, 2021 at 8:06 pm

    I am a single mom with 2 little kids, no child support. I will not put them in daycare with all that is going on. I couldn’t afford it anyways. I cannot find an at home position. I have done several interviews. We are now living in a hotel and I must have a separate room to do the work. Myself and those in a similar situation are trying to survive on little or nothing and it isn’t working. We need those benefits. I have been working since I was 14 – give me my money back!

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