Tennessee will provide an additional $300 in unemployment benefits to some workers unemployed due to COVID-19.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a grant application over the weekend to pay the Lost Wages Assistance benefit in addition to current benefits. 

“We will continue providing additional unemployment benefits for Tennesseans who have lost their jobs amidst this pandemic,” Gov. Bill Lee said during a Tuesday press briefing. “As soon as that federal money becomes available, we can get that benefit to Tennesseans.

“And while it’s important that we provide that continued benefit to those who find themselves in an extended period of hardship, we also have to look for a long-term repair to our state’s economy and get Tennesseans back to the stability of good-paying jobs.”

The extra payments will be retroactive to Aug. 1, when the additional $600 in weekly benefits expired. Recipients must be receiving at least $100 in state benefits to qualify for the additional payment.

Jeff McCord, commissioner of labor and workforce development, said the state received $236 million in grant funding. That’s enough to support expanded unemployment benefits for the first three weeks of August.

“Then we’ll wait and see if we can get another lump,” he said. “As more states come on, we do not anticipate this lasting very long.”

The state had suspended its requirement that individuals claiming unemployment benefits look for work during the height of the pandemic. Lee said that requirement would be reinstated.

“That will start happening in September. It ensures the integrity of the program. Unemployment is meant to be a transitional program. And the second thing it does is open claimants up to re-employment services so that we can move them from unemployment benefits on to meaningful employment.”

McCord said benefits would be processed this week or next week. Eligible claimants currently receiving benefits do not need to take any action. The state will automatically add the $300 benefit to their weekly benefit payment. 

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