Starting tomorrow, January 29, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will begin holding mass unemployment claim sessions at 22 career centers throughout the state. According to the state website,
These sessions are temporary, and are designed to reduce strain on the state's overloaded phone system. In many states, computer and telephone systems for unemployment have failed in recent weeks as unprecedented numbers of people have filed for unemployment across the country.
Tennessee offers an online slideshow tutorial on how to prepare to file an unemployment claim. You'll also find text information on the site about what's required to qualify for unemployment, and what papers to bring to the claim session.
Based on what I'm hearing from workforce development professionals here in California and from comments on this blog by people in other states, I think this is a smart move. Failing technology is taking a toll, and people need the financial help sooner rather than later. The personal touch could really help.
Even in cases where the best way to file for unemployment is online or by phone, many people want a real live human to help them out. They want to feel like they're being heard. Perhaps the Tennessee Career Centers could also have other social service providers on hand at these sessions to meet needs that the Labor agency can't, like food banks and mental health professionals.
Could this approach work in your state?
Do you know of other states that are trying this or other innovative models for employment services?