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Jobseekers say age discrimination continues to limit job opportunities

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Posted at 3:42 PM, May 10, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Age discrimination is nothing new, but Suzette Inman says she’s worried COVID-19 gave businesses an excuse to push older employees out of the workforce.

Inman says she has filled out hundreds of applications and been through only a handful of interviews. It’s been five months without a job for the 50-something-year-old who says she’s heard all the advice before.

Some have told her to change the college graduation date on her resume. Meanwhile, others have said maybe consider cosmetic work to appear younger.

“It’s a dilemma, and I’m so sad and so sorry for the other people who are out there like me who are struggling right now to eat,” Inman said.

Inman has more than 25 years of experience in data research and digital marketing. It makes it all the more frustrating when she hears that these are the changes you need to get a job with few opportunities to pay a living wage.

The US Dept. of Labor released April’s jobs report, which showed we gained 266,000 across the country. Experts predicted the vaccine rollout and loosening of COVID restrictions would have led to a boom in hiring. Many expected the number of new jobs to top one million. The unemployment rate actually rose to 6.1 percent.

Thankfully Inman has had unemployment benefits, but even that took months.

"If it weren’t for my church, I would’ve gone under,” Inman said.

Slashing the state’s unemployment benefits was unthinkable for Inman. Now it’s closer to reality. State lawmakers voted to cut benefits from 26 weeks down to 12—the fewest number of weeks in the country.

An amendment to these bills looks to cut unemployment to 12 weeks from the 26 weeks it usually provides. This only happens if the state’s average unemployment rate is at or below 5.5%, in other words, where they’re expected to be when things get back to normal.

Claimants get an additional week of benefits for each 0.5% we are over that 5.5% threshold. So if the unemployment rate is at 6.5%, claimants get two more weeks up to a max of 20 weeks.

The state’s fiscal report says this will cut between $31-$36 million/year in benefits from the insurance trust fund.

If approved and signed, this law would go into effect on July 1, 2023. It would cost the state $250,000 to make the necessary IT changes to their unemployment systems.

“We need some solutions here and just cutting people off is not the solution,” Inman said.

Lawmakers say the solution should be finding a job. Inman says she agrees, but we need time to work for...not against us.

Levi Ismail at WTVF first reported this story.