TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) – Tri-Cities lawmakers are asking the state to make changes in how it handles unemployment payments. This comes after thousands of Tennesseans have waited weeks, sometimes months to get their payments.

“The unemployment system in Tennessee is broken. We have folks that had a seasonal layoff back at Thanksgiving that are still waiting on unemployment payments,” Rep. David Hawk (R- Greeneville) said.

Tri-Cities legislators tell us people are calling their offices because they can’t get anyone with the state on the phone to answer their questions. The system for filing for unemployment went completely online in 2016.

When we checked in with the TN Department of Labor and Workforce Development at the beginning of January, there was a backlog of 6,000 unemployment claims in the system beyond the 21 days the federal government allows. Then a month later the backlog was at 4,800. Chris Cannon with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development said it is clearing 1,200 claims a day.

Cannon also said the state has made some changes. As of just a few weeks ago, the state now has 30 temporary live operators answering phones in the Unemployment Security Division for people simply wanting to get an update on the status of their claim.

But state lawmakers say they want more. Legislators, including some from the Tri-Cities region, said they have signed on to a letter asking for specific changes in the TN Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

“Basically asking the department of labor to get their act together because there are people who have contacted me inside my district, outside my district, they’re absolutely suffering because they have paid in to a system that is supposed to be there,” Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) said.

Some requests include using the career centers for in person help with the unemployment claims and properly managing the online chat system.

“It requests a series of changes within 30 days because that seems to be a reasonable amount of time. There’s going to be a follow-up while were in session to see what’s going on and what changes are there in the department,” Hill said.

Another big request is improving communication with the people waiting.

“We’re looking for answers. We’re looking for specific time-frames as to when our constituents can see those unemployment benefits come in to their accounts. A lot of what were looking for in simple communication,” Hawk said.

“There’s folks that do not have access to a computer that cannot certify for their unemployment. That’s a problem. There’s another example that the department apparently has a one call policy which if folks call in with a question and they get one call back that’s it, which is just inappropriate, it’s not good enough,” Hill said.

Cannon said all claims that have waited beyond the 21 days the federal government allows should be resolved in the next couple of weeks.Copyright 2017 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.