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VOL. 36 | NO. 52 | Friday, December 28, 2012

Jobless benefit rolls drop 7 percent with new rule

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NASHVILLE (AP) — About 7 percent of Tennesseans previously receiving jobless benefits have been dropped for failing to verify that they were searching for work.

That's according to an audit by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported in the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/VkcRbq).

New rules that went into effect on Sept. 1 require Tennesseans receiving jobless benefits to document at least three job searches a week.

In the first seven weeks of enforcing the new law, random audits of 6,164 people found that 402 failed to verify their weekly job searches. They lost their benefits, at least for that week. Since then, audits of another 3,147 recipients found 226 failed to meet the new search requirements.

State Sen. Jack Johnson was a sponsor of the bill. The Franklin Republican said the requirements already have saved the state's Unemployment Insurance fund more than $100,000, helping the emp loyers who pay for the program.

Job searches can include completing job applications or interviews or mailing resumes to employers.

George Wentworth is an attorney for the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for programs that help the jobless.

He said it was important to remember that "not everyone who these audits indicate haven't met the job roster requirements of this new law are necessarily not looking for work or somehow lying about their situation."

But he also said the requirements were "not out of line."

Tennessee's new search requirements are not as demanding as Florida's, where unemployment insurance recipients must prove each week that they have looked for work at five job sites.

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, earlier this month praised the new requirements.

"By strengthening the work search requirements and the definition of misconduct, we are restoring the intent of the system and making the lives of our small business owners easier while saving taxpayer dollars," Ramsey said in a statement.

Tennessee pays a maximum of $275 a week for those who lost a job through no fault of their own.