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Unemployment pandemic gets real in Mountain City

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Unemployment is a commonplace word during the time of COVID-19. The pandemic has caused many workplaces to downsize or shut down because of difficulties. Now that the world is getting back to “business as usual,” it seems like workplaces are struggling to find employees to fill the gaps. These struggles led to businesses operating with less than the desired number of staff as the best-case scenario.

Businesses around the Tri-Cities have been posting jobs constantly, with many of these coming with signing bonuses to entice applicants. Several companies used booths at the Sunflower Festival this past weekend in Mountain City to advertise their job openings to help spread awareness. The promotions included verbal notices and written pamphlets. 

The main issue that multiple businesses around the area report is a lack of legitimate interest. Applications come in businesses review them, and then contact the individual. Many businesses report that the applicants reject the job offers despite putting in the application. The consensus is that the applications are purely part of the required steps to continue unemployment benefits.

This particular issue has affected businesses all around the area. For example, Johnson County Readers’ Choice winning daycare center, Promises Academy, reports it is at risk of shutting down now because it lacks the legally obligated number of workers for this exact reason.  

“It has been absolutely heartbreaking to watch something you’ve worked so hard for, and you know has affected so many people’s lives completely fall apart,” Promises Academy Co-owner Elizabeth Sexton explained.

“There is a dire need in our community, especially for quality childcare,” Co-owner Melissa Summerow continued. “We have seen this on the news and public formats for the past couple of years. We have worked tirelessly to do as much as we can to serve our community, but without adequate staffing and resources, we are facing possible closure.”

According to Sexton and Summerow, they were told Promises Academy must close by August 13, leaving around 20 families without childcare. At the time of this article, the owners report a glimmer of hope that their business may stay afloat. There is no guarantee at this time.

About Tennessee Unemployment Benefits
While people were out of work, the United States government provided unemployment pay. Several individuals have reported that the money they received was higher than what they would earn for a regular paycheck. Tennessee officially left behind these federal payments on Sunday, July 4, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.  

Now benefits will only come from the Tennessee Unemployment Compensation program, which offers a maximum of $275 per week for no more than 26 weeks in a year. According to Wallet Hub, Tennessee is lagging at number 29 in unemployment recovery nationwide. For more information on unemployment, benefits, and resources for rejoining the Tennessee workforce, visit tn.gov/workforce.