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Important Information Regarding Federal Unemployment Benefits in Tennessee. Click Banner for Details.


This is an interactive PDF with topics listed at the top. You can click on the topic you have a question about and it will take you to the answer.

Eligibility Questions

Am I eligible for unemployment?

Anyone may file a claim, but keep in mind that the basic eligibility requirements are that you have been separated from your job through no fault of your own and that you are able and available to return to work or accept suitable employment if offered. If you fail to return to work or accept suitable work when offered, you are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits.  Any benefit you collect after refusing work will result in an overpayment and must be paid back. Refer to the "How to File" article on the helpdesk at Visit

My hours have been cut, but I have not been laid off; am I eligible for unemployment?

It depends. Reduced hours might qualify someone for unemployment. We recommend that you go ahead and file the claim.

  • If you are still making more money than your “Weekly Benefit Amount” (as listed on your monetary determination letter), then simply do not certify as you are still considered employed.
  • If you are making less than your Weekly Benefit Amount, you may be eligible to receive partial UI benefits. Each claimant will have a unique weekly benefit amount, based on their prior earnings. For reference, the maximum weekly benefit amount in Tennessee is $275. Apply for benefits and certify each week on Jobs4TN, report the earnings and the system will adjust your benefit.

I work part-time. Am I eligible for UI?

It depends. If you earn less than your weekly benefit amount, you may be eligible to receive partial UI benefits. Each claimant will have a unique weekly benefit amount, based on their prior earnings. For reference, the maximum weekly benefit amount in Tennessee is $275.

My employer has temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Am I eligible for Unemployment Insurance?

You may file a claim. Our team will review your claim and determine what, if any, program is available to provide you will benefits.

I cannot work because my child’s school or daycare facility has closed due to COVID-19, and I need to stay home to take care of my child. Am I eligible for Unemployment Insurance?

You may be eligible for benefits under the PUA program. Under provisions of the PUA program, you may receive benefits if you are the primary caregiver for a child whose school or care facility closed due to COVID-19.

If you are unable to return to work due to your child being out of school due to COVID-19, you may be permitted to remain out of work for a limited time, and still collect UI benefits. Based on guidance provided by the US Department of Labor, this exception will only apply until the date the school year was scheduled to end prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have other reliable child care options, you may not be eligible for this exception. These cases will be investigated and decisions will be issued on a case-by-case basis.

My employer told me that I am being furloughed; am I eligible for unemployment?

It depends on how the furlough will affect your pay:

  • If the furlough is a fully paid furlough, the answer is no. 
  • If your pay was cut or eliminated, the answer is yes.

Are apprentices who are laid off eligible for unemployment?

If they are full-time employees and are laid off, they rate the same benefits as any other employee.

If my doctor does not want me to work because of the virus, can I file for unemployment?

Yes. Under provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act and Governor Lee’s executive order #15, being quarantined by a medical professional is a compensable separation, provided that you also meet all other eligibility requirements.

If I am not able to go to work because a medical professional told me I need to quarantine, am I eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits?

You may be eligible for benefits. Governor Lee’s Executive Order 15 opened eligibility to individuals who were forced to leave work based on the guidance from a medical professional. Additionally, the provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act provide increased eligibility to individuals who left work due to a medical quarantine.

I am an older worker and/or I have an immuno-compromised health condition. I work near a lot of people and am personally uncomfortable going to work due to concerns about my health. Am I eligible for Unemployment Insurance?

Under the provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act, you may be eligible for compensation under the PUA program.

Who is eligible for PUA?

Individuals are eligible for PUA if they do not qualify for regular UI benefits (including self-employed workers and independent contractors) and cannot work because they:

  • Are diagnosed with COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking diagnosis;
  • Have a member of the household who is diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • Are providing care for a family or household member diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • Are the primary caregiver for a child whose school or care facility closed, due to COVID-19;
  • Are unable to reach their place of employment due to an imposed quarantine, or because advised by a medical provider to self-quarantine, due to COVID-19;
  • Were scheduled to start new employment and cannot reach the workplace as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Became the major breadwinner because the head of household died from COVID-19;
  • Quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Had their place of employment closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  • Meet any additional criteria specified by U.S. Secretary of Labor.

Individuals are not eligible for PUA if they can telework or are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits (regardless of meeting a category listed above).

To apply for PUA, claimants will need to file an unemployment claim on or call (844) 224-5818. Filing online is the fastest, most efficient way to receive your benefits. Due to high call volume, you will experience extended wait times when applying by phone.


General Questions

What is Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment insurance (also known as UI) provides temporary cash benefits to employees who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The overarching goal of the program is a successful re-employment of all claimants. If you have worked in Tennessee within the last 18 months and lost your job, through no fault of your own, you may be eligible for TUC.

What is the maximum benefit I can receive through Unemployment Insurance?

A claimant’s benefit rate is based on the recent wages he/she earned from his/her employer(s) over the last 18 months. The maximum weekly benefit amount in Tennessee is currently $275. (Claimants could also be eligible for the additional $300 under the FPUC program until July 3, 2021.)

How do I apply for Unemployment Insurance?

You can file a claim by visiting or calling (844) 224-5818. Due to larger than normal call volume, we are strongly encouraging individuals wishing to file a claim to first visit the website, if possible.

When should I file my claim?

You may file your claim at any time after being laid off without pay or separated from your employer.

My employer said he/she filed on my behalf (employer mass filed (partial) claim) and submitted to the state. Do I still need to file an individual claim?

No, if your employer filed an employer mass filed claim also known as a partial claim, the state has all your information. Log into to monitor your claim and do your weekly certifications by answering a few questions. If you are not sure please ask your employer to avoid confusion and delays.

Is there a website that helps me understand the unemployment claims process?

Yes, visit or search online for “Tennessee Unemployment”.

I'm not good with computers; can you help me file my claim?

We cannot help you at this call center.  We encourage you to find a family member or friend to help you file your claim online. If that's not an option, advise them to contact the Customer Service Center at (844) 224-5818. Call wait times are high, so it may take longer for someone to get back with you to file the claim with you.

I live in Tennessee but worked in another state.  Where should I file?

You should ask your separating employer what state your wages were reported and file with that state. 

What other resources might be available to me?

Check out TN 211 by dialing 2-1-1 or go online at for a variety of community resources for things like emotional, housing, or food resources.

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse also recommends the national suicide prevention lifeline, 1-800-273-8255. Help is available. In 2018, the Lifeline answered over 2.2 million calls from people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress across the United States. Or talk to a Tennessee-specific group via the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.


UI Application Process

What information is needed to file my claim?

Social Security Number, a Jobs4TN username and password (created during the claim process), basic personal information, employment history dates and wage amounts, bank routing number (if choosing direct deposit to receive benefits). Military, farm work, workers’ compensation, child support, and public assistant programs (like TANF and SNAP/Food Stamps) questions.

I tried filing and it says I already have an account / my Social Security number is already in use.

Check for typos in your Social Security number that you used when filing the claim.

Reset your password by clicking "Forgot Username/Password" on the home page on If this doesn't work, leave a message with the CST Team at 844-224-5818 or email them at to request a password reset. Then wait for an agent to reach out for assistance.  An instruction page on resetting your password can be found at

While filing my claim, what do I put for my separation reason?

If you are separated from your employer due to a temporary shutdown or due to the coronavirus, you can select “Lack of Work” as the separation reason. Please make sure you enter the last date you physically worked as your last day.

While filing my claim, which date do I use as my last day of work if I received vacation pay (or other types of pay) when off of work?

When filing the claim, list the last day that you actually worked. The wages received from vacation, retention fees, emergency funds, or other part-time job(s) will need to be reported on a week-to-week basis during your weekly certifications after you file the claim.


After You've Filed

I’ve already filed for unemployment, what do I need to do next?

Each week that you are unemployed, log in to your account to complete your weekly claim certification. You may start certifying the first Sunday after you file your claim, and weekly thereafter. If you don’t certify for more than 2 weeks, your claim will be locked. Sometimes, more information is needed from you, if so, you will be notified by your preferred method of contact that you selected when filing your claim. So monitor your Jobs4TN account regularly, if your claim is still pending.

After filing your claim, you will receive a letter in your Jobs4TN Message Center called the “Monetary Determination Letter”. Review this letter for any mistakes in your employment history as it may affect your potential benefit amount. This letter also gives an estimate of your benefit amount, pending claim approval.

My Monetary Determination letter has incorrect income/benefit numbers. How do I correct this?

If there is an issue with the wages missing in that time period, then “File a Wage Protest” on More details are in your letter.

However, many will see the letter and think it’s wrong because the amounts listed may not be enough to pay bills. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. There has to be wages missing for it to be wrong.

If there are other areas of the initial claim form needing to be edited or updated, you will need to contact the Department for assistance.

I received a letter that says I’m monetarily ineligible. What does that mean?

To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, you must have sufficient earnings in your base period from a covered employer. The base period is defined as the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. Without sufficient earnings, you will not be eligible to receive benefits. However, under the provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act, you may still be eligible for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. In fact, the first condition of eligibility for PUA is being ineligible for regular unemployment. After receiving a decision stating you are monetarily ineligible, you do not need to take any additional action. Our team will continue to process your claim for eligibility under the PUA program. You will receive another decision concerning your eligibility for the PUA program.

Does receiving a Monetary Determination letter mean I will receive UI benefits?

Not necessarily. Every claim is reviewed before a claim is approved or denied. That is why it is important that you send us information on missing wages or missing employers (from the past 18 months) as soon as possible.

I made a wage protest, how long does this process take? 

This process is currently taking much longer than normal because of the high volume of claims the Department is processing. This is a lengthy process where the Department must request proof of wages from the employer. The Department must then investigate the information submitted by the employer.

Do I have to complete work searches as part of my weekly certification?

Starting Oct. 4, 2020 many claimants had to begin completing three work searches as part of their weekly certification.

If a claimant chooses to continue receiving unemployment benefits, they must make at least three potential job contacts. They will then report those work search activities during the weekly certification process.

If a claimant has a definitive return-to-work date within 16 weeks of the date of their layoff, or a COVID-19 related exemption, they do not need to complete this requirement. The system will not prompt exempt claimants to complete the work search portion of the certification process.

Most claimants are required to search for work. Self-employed individuals can fulfill this requirement by performing work activities.

If a claimant fails to complete work searches or activities, the system will automatically deny their benefits for that week.

Out of Work: Not Job Attached: Claimants who are out of work and do not have a job to return to, or a return-to-work date, are required to complete weekly work searches.

Self-employed: Work search activities for self-employed individuals can include calling on clients, advertising business services, posting business-related social media content, enhancing the business’s website, submitting bids or proposals, applying for contract or gig work, or attend training. Self-employed claimants need to continue taking proactive steps to reopen their businesses. If they do not plan to reopen their business, they must complete traditional work searches. 

Out of Work: Job Attached: Claimants who are temporarily laid off or furloughed, and have a return-to-work date, are not required to complete weekly job searches.

Union Workers: Claimants, who are union workers, and attained employment through their union hiring hall, are not required to complete weekly job searches.

COVID-19: Claimants who are out of work due to one of the COVID-19 reasons listed in the CARES Act may be exempt from performing job searches. They must self-certify they are unable to look for work due to one of the approved COVID-19 designations but are otherwise able and available.

Can I use my phone to complete my weekly certification?

Yes, you can download the app Jobs4TN from the app store.  To see a video on how the app works visit

My income/wage amounts are incorrect, why can’t I change them during certification?

If wages are entered incorrectly during a certification, corrections must be adjusted by the department. This is a safety precaution to prevent a manipulation of the system that might risk an overpayment which would have to be paid back to the department.

If I am found eligible for Unemployment Insurance, when can I expect my
first payment?

Under normal conditions, USDOL recommends that we pay 87% of eligible claimants within 21 days of filing the claim. However, we are not operating under normal conditions. We are working to process all claims as quickly as possible. Rest assured that if you are found to be eligible you will receive a retroactive payment for all weeks of benefits you are owed.

While waiting on a decision you will need to certify for benefits each week; you will only be paid for weeks you completed a certification. Also, check your mail and respond to any questionnaires or phone calls from TDLWD, right away, to prevent delays in your payments.

Additionally, you can assist our staff by completing certifications and checking the status of your claim during non-business hours.

How will I get paid?

You can choose either direct deposit or debit card. The direct deposit account does need to be a valid checking account. The debit card will be issued to you via the United States Postal Service.

What is the waiting week and what does it mean that it was waived?

Typically, the first full week of a claim is an unpaid waiting week. Per Executive Order 15, Governor Lee suspended the one-week waiting period for individuals impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis. This means that if you are found eligible for benefits, you will receive retroactive payment back to the first week of your claim. It does not mean that you will be paid as soon as you file your claim.

How do I check the status of my claim?

  1. Go to at least 24 hours after you have filed your claim.
  2. Or, Log in to your account. On your dashboard, select “Claim Summary” under the Unemployment Services box. This page lets you know if any issues that may still be pending on your claim and show the certified weeks that have been paid to you.


Can I get updates on my claim via text message?

The Tennessee Department of Labor has launched an SMS texting service to provide claim updates and program information to our citizens as quickly as possible. You can opt-in to the TN LABOR MSG service by going to your profile in your account. By opting into the messaging service, you have read and agree to the Mobile Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. For complete instructions on signing up for the texting service, click here.

What happens if I do not return to my work when called back, or accept suitable work when offered?

If you fail to return to work when called or accept suitable work when offered then you are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits. Any benefit you collect after refusing work will result in an overpayment which must be paid back.

Unless you meet a qualifying exception, refusing to return to work is a disqualifying circumstance for receiving unemployment compensation benefits. Overpayments that are deemed to be the result of fraud, will also incur penalties and interest, as well as potential for criminal prosecution.

Exceptions will be similar to the eligibility requirements for Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. Each exception will require individual investigation; decisions will be issued on a case-by-case basis.

The following are the COVID-19 eligibility requirements to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provided through the federal the American Rescue Plan Act.

  • Are diagnosed with COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking diagnosis;
  • Have a member of the household who is diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • Are providing care for a family or household member diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • Are the primary caregiver for a child whose school or care facility closed, due to COVID-19;
  • Are unable to reach their place of employment due to an imposed quarantine, or because advised by a medical provider to self-quarantine, due to COVID-19;
  • Were scheduled to start new employment and cannot reach the workplace as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Became the major breadwinner because the head of household died from COVID-19;
  • Quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Had their place of employment closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  • Meet any additional criteria specified by U.S. Secretary of Labor

How will TDLWD be made aware of my failure to report back to work when recalled by my employer?

You will be asked to report any offers of work you received during the week during certification. Additionally, your employer may also report a failure to return to work.

Will the agency let me know the outcome of the refusal of return to work issue?  

The agency will issue a written determination that will be delivered to your preferred method of communication.

If you disagree with the agency’s decision, you will have fifteen (15) calendar days from the mail date of the issued decision to file an appeal. You may file an appeal online via, by email at, fax to 615-741-8933, or you can mail your appeal to: TDLWD Attention: Appeals Tribunal, 220 French Landing Dr., Nashville, TN 37243.

When I go back to work, how do I stop the claim?

All you need to do is stop certifying once you start working again. This lets the system know you no longer need the benefits. Continuing to certify after you have returned to work could result in an overpayment, which you would be required to pay back.

Am I required to return to work if my child care facility reopens after being closed due to COVID-19?

Yes. If you have access to reliable child care this will not qualify as an exception for refusing to return to work. Failure to return to work for this reason could in a loss of UI benefits. Additionally, any benefits you received after the employer extended an offer for you to return to work after regaining access to child care will result in an overpayment of benefits.

If I am on orders to quarantine by a medical professional or governmental agency, do I need to return to my employer? Do I need to provide documentation to my employer and the agency?

You will not need to return to your employer until released by your physician or the governmental entity. However, you must supply your employer and TDLWD with documentation to support your quarantine.

I’ve exhausted my benefits, are there any programs that will extend my eligibility to receive payments?

The federal government offers two programs for claimants who have exhausted their benefits. PEUC can provide additional weeks of payments. Learn how and when to file by following the step-by-step guide you'll find when you click this link:

When will my extended benefits end?

Under the American Rescue Plan Act, claimants who began receiving benefits through the PUA program early in its inception will begin reaching the maximum 79 weeks of payments in the coming weeks. All PUA claimants will receive benefits only through the week ending July 3, 2021. The state encourages claimants to continue searching for work so they can secure employment before their benefits end. Once a claimant exhausts benefits on the PUA program, they are not eligible for any other unemployment program.

If the Department determines the eligibility of a claim after March 14, 2021, if approved, the claimant will retroactively receive applicable payments for all weeks with a completed certification through the program’s ending date.

Claimants receiving extended benefits through PEUC need to keep in mind this program will stop after the week ending July 3, 2021.

Are unemployment benefits taxable?

Yes, unemployment benefits are considered taxable income.


Coronavirus-specific Questions

Can I receive unemployment benefits if I am out of work due to the Coronavirus pandemic?

Yes, if you meet the eligibility requirements. To file a claim go to

I’m concerned that if I apply for UI that my employer might retaliate against me or not call me back to work after the pandemic ends. What are my rights?

State law provides all workers with the right to file for unemployment compensation benefits. Additionally, Tennessee recently updated the Separation Notice employers provide claimants who have been separated or laid-off work. This update contains new information about each employee’s right to file for UI benefits. It should be supplied to the employee in addition to the Separation Notice.

Do I need to complete job searches in order to complete my weekly certification during the COVID-19 health emergency?

Governor Lee’s Executive Order No. 15 modified the job search requirement for weekly certifications. The Executive Order temporarily allows for work search requirements to be modified so that an unemployment insurance claimant can satisfy requirements simply by creating and maintaining their reemployment plan, creating and maintaining a searchable and active resume, completing a career profile in, or any other good-faith reemployment strategy reasonably expected to result in reemployment after the health emergency ends. These modifications are only applicable to those who cannot return to work due to the COVID related exemptions already shared in other guidance.

Can I get Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for a coronavirus business closure?

The American Rescue Plan Act will provide benefits to those who qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which is similar to Disaster Unemployment Assistance. The American Rescue Plan Act provides additional Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits to Tennesseans impacted by the COVID-19 health emergency. The new federal law provides:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance - Can provide 79 weeks of eligibility for individuals who have traditionally been ineligible for UI benefits, if they meet requirements. (Self-employed, gig workers, independent contractors)
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation - An additional $300 per week,in addition to regular benefits, to most UI recipients; and,
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation - Can provide up to an additional 48 weeks of UI benefits to eligible claimants.
  • The federal government has recently passed laws that provide additional Unemployment Insurance benefits.

I have been cleared to return to work after having COVID-19, but my employer refuses to allow me to begin working again.

The Department has no jurisdiction over this issue. For unemployment purposes, the claimant can file a new claim, or if they are actively receiving benefits, continue to certify.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)

How long will I receive FPUC payments?

FPUC will provide an additional $300 weekly benefit to eligible claimants. A claimant must be eligible through a separate unemployment program to receive FPUC. The additional benefit is available to cover weeks of unemployment until the week ending July 3, 2021.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) 

I am already receiving UI. How will this program assist me?

If you exhaust your regular UI benefits (up to 26 weeks), you may receive an additional 48 weeks of additional benefits under the PEUC program.

I exhausted my benefits a few weeks ago. Am I still eligible for PEUC benefits?

Yes. Anyone who exhausted UI benefits after July 1, 2019, is eligible to receive the additional weeks of benefits through the week ending July 3, 2021.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

How do I apply for PUA?

You can file a UI application online at or call (844) 224-5818. Due to high call volume at this time, we recommend filing online outside normal business hours of 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. CST. Please note, you will not be eligible for PUA until you have been determined ineligible for UI benefits or have exhausted all regular UI benefits.

Do I have to wait a week after I became unemployed before I can receive benefits under PUA?

No, the waiting week was temporarily suspended by Governor Lee’s Executive Order 15.

How long do benefits from PUA last?

The extension of PUA benefits may cover up to an additional 79 weeks of payments through the week ending July 3, 2021.

Are benefits from PUA retroactive?

Yes, PUA benefits can be paid retroactively for periods of unemployment directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am self-employed. When the state calculates my PUA weekly benefit amount, will I receive back pay if my actual benefit should be higher than the initial $120 per week I received?

Yes, when state determines your actual weekly benefit amount, if it is higher than the minimum $120 payment, you will retroactively receive the difference between the minimum and your actual benefit amount.

I can work remotely. Am I eligible for PUA?

No. If you have the option to work remotely, you are not eligible for PUA benefits.

What is the maximum benefit I can receive from PUA?

Your benefit rate is based on your wages over the past 18 months. In Tennessee, the current maximum weekly benefit amount is $275. The minimum PUA benefit amount is 50% of the average weekly benefit amount. The maximum benefit amount is $275.

This Page Last Updated: June 1, 2021 at 3:11 PM