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Late Wednesday night, the United States Senate passed the CARES Act, a historic $2 trillion stimulus package designed to help save the currently struggling economy, which has seen millions of Americans laid off from their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tennessee has been no exception when it comes to layoffs — the state Department of Labor reported 39,096 new unemployment claims last week. The week prior saw just 2,702 new unemployment claims, for a total increase week over week of roughly 1,347 percent.

Calling the increase of unemployment claims unprecedented. The state Department of Labor has moved to training 200 of its employees to work solely in assisting with unemployment claims, and is currently “exploring other methods to increase its workforce.”

Ordinarily, those applying for unemployment in Tennessee are required to undergo a one-week waiting period before receiving benefits. For the time being, that waiting period has been waived through an executive order, with those applying receiving their first week of benefits as soon as claims are approved.

If approved, the maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Tennessee is currently $275 before federal taxes deductions.

The increase in unemployment claims in Tennessee is mirrored nationwide, with roughly 3.3 million Americans applying for unemployment last week. For comparison, the week prior saw just over 280,000 new claims, for a total increase of more than 1,000 percent.

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