Roundup: 100,000 Unemployment Claims to be Paid This Week, Four COVID-19 Deaths in Knox County
KCHD releases demographic hospitalization data, by age and gender only
New data from the Knox County Health Department shows more than 17% of men with COVID-19 have been hospitalized, while fewer than 9% of women in the county were hospitalized. Three-quarters of Knox Countians with COVID-19 over the age of 75 had to be hospitalized.
"Most concerning, of course, is the high hospitalization rate for those over 75," Buchanan said. "While this mirrors the national data, it underscores the importance of protecting those most at risk."
As of Wednesday, there have been four deaths in Knox County due to COVID-19. These include a 93-year-old woman, an 86-year-old woman and a 63-year-old man. A little more than 50% of the 146 COVID-19 cases in Knox County have recovered.
Neither the county nor the state has released coronavirus demographic data by race or ethnicity, but NPR News reports data released by other cities and states show alarming racial disparities. State health commissioner Lisa Piercey announced Tuesday that Tennessee plans to release demographic data later this week.
Unemployment checks being sent out this week
More than 250,000 Tennesseeans made initial unemployment claims in the past three weeks, 25 times the amount the department would typically get during that period. Officials said at least 100,000 new payments are expected to go out this week.
Tennessee has now developed a plan for distributing federal CARES Act funding. According to Labor Commissioner Jeff McCord, the state will be issuing an additional $600 a week of Pandemic Unemployment Compensation to anyone receiving unemployment assistance. These are federal dollars that will be distributed in addition to the weekly $275 or less in state-funded unemployment assistance. There is no date yet for when these payments will begin.
Self-employed workers, independent contractors and freelancers in Tennessee are newly eligible to receive unemployment assistance through the CARES Act. "We will go back and review your file based on this new guidance to see if you're eligible for that, even if you weren't eligible for traditional unemployment insurance," McCord said.
And banks and credit unions in Tennessee are accepting applications for forgivable small business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. The caveat for these federal loans is that businesses must use 75% of the funds for payroll costs to have the entire loan converted into a grant. Any unforgiven portions of the loan will have a 1% interest rate. According to reporting by NPR, some business owners have faced excessive delays in getting a loan in time to cover payroll.
Libraries try new ways of supporting patrons
Libraries across East Tennessee are taking steps to serve patrons despite social distancing. Pigeon Forge Public Library is helping people file for unemployment by phone. Sevier County libraries are checking books out using a curbside service, and some of the counties' libraries are providing unemployment application assistance from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., allowing a limited number of people into the library at a time. Sevier County Libraries have promoted wifi access from their parking lots. Blount County libraries recently canceled their curbside library services, but have posted videos explaining how to access the library digitally.
Knox County libraries are closed entirely, but all due dates have been extended automatically. The library system is providing extra online resources, like digital access cards for anyone that doesn't currently have a library card.
Tennessee might owe you money, find out online
The state's Department of the Treasury has a stockpile of more than $900 million dollars that is owed to Tennesseeans. By state law, companies must eventually turn over any unclaimed property to the state. This includes uncashed payroll checks, overpayment credit balances or refunds that were left in accounts that had no activity for a year or more. Tennesseeans can search their name in the treasury's database.