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Roundup: First COVID-19 Death in Blount County, TN Department of Labor Update on Federal Funds

City of Knoxville, Twitter

First COVID-19 Death in Blount County

Blount Memorial Hospital confirmed its first patient death due to COVID-19. The hospital did not provide any further details about the patient, but the Maryville Daily Times reported it was a Maryville man who would have celebrated his 80th birthday later this month. This is the first reported death in Blount County from the virus.

Department of Labor Hires Temporary Workers During Application Spike

The federal government has now issued guidance to states about how to implement the promised additional $600 a week to workers receiving unemployment assistance. But according to Tennessee’s Department of Labor website, the state is still working on an agreement with the federal government regarding the new law. Spokesman Chris Cannon said anyone who may be eligible for assistance should apply now. Freelance and self-employed workers are newly covered under the federal law, so Cannon said not to be deterred if the state’s system says they are currently ineligible.

"Folks who are self-employed or contract workers, freelancers, they should apply for unemployment benefits now through the state of Tennessee,” Cannon said. “It will say that you’re monetarily ineligible at this point, but when we get the guidance from the federal government about paying these claims about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, we’ll be able to go back and pull your claim and then start the process from that point and start paying those benefits if you are eligible.”

Tennessee received more than 123,000 unemployment applications in the past two weeks. Chris Cannon said the state has been reallocating resources and hiring temporary call center workers to accommodate the unprecedented spike. 

“We have increased the capacity on the website itself to handle more claims, we’ve increased capacity in our call centers adding more staff to take calls and process claims and we’ve extended hours so we can help more Tennesseans,” Cannon said.

The state is required to respond to all applications within 21 days. Applications take about half an hour and can only be completed online.

TN Department of Human Services Creates Emergency Cash Assistance Hotline

The state’s DHS launched a new hotline through which families can check on the status of emergency cash assistance. The assistance program comes out of TANF funds, a program designed to help working families. To qualify, an individual must have been employed on March 11th and have since lost at least 50% of their income due to COVID-19. With local offices closed, the department is encouraging Tennesseeans to apply online. The hotline to check on the approval or denial of an application can be reached at (833) 496 – 0661.

Knoxville First Responders Report Hundreds of Donations of PPE

The city of Knoxville reported receiving 315 N95 masks, 103 boxes of gloves, 150 boxes of surgical masks and 75 containers of sanitizing wipes during the first two days of its donation drive.  Donations are being accepted throughout the month on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. at the Jacob Building, 3301 E. Magnolia Ave. Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon vowed to keep all donations within the county and distribute them to first responders.