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Tennessee paying unemployment benefits to felons behind bars

Brian Haas, The Tennessean • Apr 23, 2014 at 8:36 PM

Dead people and state employees are still getting jobless benefits. But a new group is reaping the rewards of Tennessee's broken unemployment system — felons behind bars.

For the second year in a row, state auditors found numerous problems with the state's unemployment system. An audit last year found that at least $73 million in jobless benefits were improperly paid out. But this year's version found that the amount had ballooned to $181 million. And it found new problems with ineligible people — dead and alive — drawing benefits.

People with legitimate claims to unemployment, meanwhile, continue to struggle with a phone system nearly impossible to get through, the new audit found. Those lucky enough to have their calls answered — about 15 percent of callers according to June 2013 statistics — endured nearly an hour of waiting, on average.

"I just sit and I redial, redial, redial, I try all hours of the day," said Karen Lacey, a Nashville resident who has been trying to get unemployment benefits since March 3. "It's been a big problem."

Keep reading with our partners at The Tennessean.

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