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Texas unemployment rate jumps 1,600%. Here's how you can get help

Weekly unemployment numbers show almost a half-million Texans lost their job over the last two weeks. Here are the industries hit hardest and resources to help.

AUSTIN, Texas — Weekly unemployment numbers show almost 500,000 Texans lost their job over the last two weeks.

For the week ending on March 28, more than 275,000 Texans applied for unemployment benefits, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The same report shows more than 155,000 filed claims for the week ending March 21.

For perspective, during the week ending on March 14, the initial claims filed were close to 16,000.  

It’s more than a 1,600% increase from three weeks ago to last week.

On March 19, when the unemployment claims were not at six digits, the state issued the Public Health Disaster. We started staying six feet apart, employers were asked to have staff work from home, and the declaration suggested restaurants should not allow dine-in options. 

Reports to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics show layoffs last week were in industries for:

“...the accommodation and food services, transportation and warehousing, health care and social assistance, administrative, support, waste management, and remediation services, mining, retail trade, manufacturing, real estate rental and leasing, and construction industries."

For the week prior, layoffs also included the arts, entertainment and recreation industries.

Here is unemployment benefit information for you

“Workers who have been laid off, terminated or furloughed because of COVID-19 are eligible for compensation. Employees who have hours reduced may also be eligible for benefits. The self-employed who have lost their businesses may be eligible for disaster assistance as well,” a Texas Workforce Commission press release reads.

We asked the Texas Workforce Commission several questions for viewers.

  • How many people are applying online versus calling in?

I can’t provide you with exact numbers for March 2020 until April 17, but I can tell you that, on average, over 3,000 people file over the phone and, depending on the day, about 35,000 online.

  • What is the unemployment rate for Texas for March?

Data related to unemployment numbers, including the number of unemployment insurance claims, will be provided after the official release to the Department of Labor. This is to ensure the security of the data and to prevent anyone from benefiting from early access to the data, which can influence stock and bond markets.

Texas unemployment data for February 2020 can be found on TexasLMI.com and a labor market report on the February data for Texas can be found here.

Texas unemployment data for March 2020 will be released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on April 3 and by the Texas Workforce Commission on April 17. I can tell you that Texas saw an increase in unemployment insurance claims following the nation’s trend. You can find unemployment insurance claim data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor here.

Unemployment data can be accessed through the Texas Workforce Commission’s labor market report. To sign up for Texas Workforce Commission notification updates on the labor market reports and for a schedule of release dates, please use the link below.

Sign up for Texas Workforce Commission updates.

Schedule of release dates for the Texas Workforce Commission labor market report.

You can find more Texas labor market information here, including local area unemployment statistics, quarterly census of employment and wages and projections under the popular downloads tab. You can also review metropolitan statistical area profiles, workforce development area profiles and more.

  • In the DOL data, it shows states with an increase of more than 1,000 (pg.8) for the week ending March 21. It shows Texas has more than139,250 layoffs in the accommodation and food services, transportation and warehousing, health care and social assistance, administrative, support, waste management, and remediation services, mining, retail trade, manufacturing, real estate rental and leasing, and construction industries.” It does not mention COVID-19 like other states.

  • Can you elaborate? Does this impact the PUA and PEUC eligibility?

I would recommend checking in with the U.S. Department of Labor for clarification why their report does not mention COVID-19 for Texas but it does for other states.

TWC is taking action to implement the new law and working with the Department of Labor to implement the act while continuing to work tirelessly to process unemployment insurance claims caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are upgrading our system to adapt to the new legislation.

  • What are the basics of filing a claim?

Typically, to receive unemployment benefits, you must have enough past wages in the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters, have a qualifying job separation and meet ongoing requirements. These are not typical times and various temporary law changes can broaden the number of people who would typically qualify for benefits; therefore, if an individual has been working fulltime regardless of whether the work was covered employment; self-employment; contract labor or commission-based, they should file a claim at ui.texasworkforce.org. If they already have a claim in our system, then we will reach out to them at the last address of record.

  • How do you extend your benefits?

If you recently exhausted benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

We are upgrading our system to adapt to the new legislation. If you attempt to access the system or call prior to receiving notification, we will not be able to assist you.

  • What does the [The CARES Act] mean for me?

If you are self-employed, a contract worker or previously worked in a position that did not report wages, you may qualify for unemployment and can apply.

If you already applied, TWC will determine if you qualify under the [CARES Act] and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

If you have not filed, please go online to ui.texasworkforce.org and file or, if unable to file online, then call us at 1-800-939-6631 to start the process.

  • How do you apply for the $600 [Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation] Funds? 

If you applied for unemployment benefits, no additional action is needed. We will determine if you qualify under the [CARES Act] and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

We are upgrading our system to adapt to the new legislation. If you attempt to access the system or call prior to receiving notification, we will not be able to assist you.

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  • What is the average wait time to get claims processed? 

It takes about seven minutes online to file your claim. The only thing you need is your social security number and home address.

  • What is the average wait time for calls to get through?

We understand our internet system and our phone lines are overwhelmed. The Governor declared the COVID-19 pandemic a disaster March 13, 2020; therefore, we can backdate a claim to the prior Sunday, which is March 8, 2020, if an individual was unemployed and has been trying to file but has not yet been successful. If the individual became unemployed subsequent to March 13, 2020, and has been attempting file but not yet successful then their claim will be effective the Sunday prior to the date they were separated from work.

  • What is your PIN retrieval policy now? Is it different?

The Texas Workforce Commission is working to resolve issues that some people are having with PIN numbers.

In response to a high number of PIN retrieval requests, TWC updated our PIN retrieval policy. PINs created prior to 2015 have been removed from the system effective March 22, 2020. Individuals needing to retrieve a PIN that was created prior to 2015 are asked to please login again online and reset their PIN. Please note, claimants who meet these requirements but have an overpayment will still need to call to retrieve their PIN.

If an individual has never filed for unemployment before, they do not need to reset a PIN or establish a PIN before filing a claim online. The PIN set up will occur during the claims filing process.

If the individual tried to file online but got a message saying their PIN and SSN is not a valid combination, they get three chances to enter the correct PIN. If they receive a message that they are revoked, they will be advised to call the PIN reset department (number is displayed on the page to call). At this time, that is their only option.

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For any other scenarios where their PIN is revoked, their only option is for the PIN to be reset. However, we are pulling a list of individuals whose PIN is currently revoked and we will be resetting their pins and reaching to them to let them know we reset it.

Now that you’ve applied for unemployment benefits, you should:

Set up a Personal Identification Number (PIN) if you have not already done so.

Call our automated phone system, Tele-Serv, at 800-558-8321. Select Option 4. Enter your Social Security number (SSN), confirm your SSN, then enter your chosen four-digit PIN, and confirm your PIN. Wait for the message “Your new PIN has been accepted.”

Resetting Your PIN

If you revoke your PIN and you are eligible for self-serv reset, on the same call you may be able to reset your PIN on Tele-Serv by providing personal information from your claim, such as:

  1. Date of birth
  2. Texas driver license or ID number
  3. Telephone number
  4. Amount of your last benefit payment
  5. Part of your bank/credit union account number

If you hang up from Tele-Serv, you will be unable to reset your PIN. Tele-Center staff are pulling reports of customers who have revoked their PIN and reaching out to them to verify their identify and reset their PIN.

  • What is the Shared Work program? 

The Shared Work program allows employers to reduce normal weekly work hours for employees in an affected unit by at least 10% but not more than 40%; the reduction must affect at least 10% of the employees in that unit.

Shared Work allows employers to supplement their employees’ wages lost because of reduced work hours with partial unemployment benefits. Under the program, employers can reduce normal weekly work hours for employees in an affected unit by at least 10% but not more than 40%. Shared Work unemployment benefits are payable to employees who qualify for and participate in an approved Shared Work Plan. Workers may choose not to participate. Employees who qualify will receive both wages and Shared Work unemployment benefits.

The employer can use the Shared Work Plan only for employees whose hours have been reduced. Shared Work benefits can be paid only for wages lost because of a reduction in the employee's regular hours. Regular hours may not exceed 40 hours. An employee who normally works overtime may not receive shared work benefits for a reduction in their overtime hours.

Shared work employees must:

  • Submit their unemployment claims on Unemployment Benefits Services
  • Be eligible for regular unemployment benefits
  • Accept all work offered by the participating employer
  • Be able and available for work with the employer

For more information on the Shared Work Program or to apply for the program, visit https://twc.texas.gov/businesses/shared-work.Will Texans need to apply for state unemployment benefits first to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation? 
Yes. An individual may apply for benefits or check the status of their existing claim online at ui.texasworkforce.org any time 24/7 which will allow us to more quickly handle their claim needs. If they do not have internet access, they may call 1-800-939-6631 M-F 8 am to 6 pm CST and Saturday 8 am to 5 pm CST.

If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

If you applied for unemployment benefits but lacked the necessary wages to qualify, no action is needed. We will determine if you qualify under the [CARES act] and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility. We are upgrading our system to adapt to the new legislation. If you attempt to access the system or call prior to receiving notification, we will not be able to assist you.

  • Are there any other requirements for the additional federal aid that unemployed people will have to do? 
    If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

Unemployment benefits are taxable. Individuals can sign up for withholding and the Texas Workforce Commission will deduct 10% for income tax.

  • How long will it approximately take the TWC to roll out an application process for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from the time that the act is signed. 

TWC is taking action to implement the new law and working with the Department of Labor to implement the act while continuing to work tirelessly to process unemployment insurance claims caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

  • How long will it approximately take for TWC to administer those benefits to eligible workers? 

TWC is taking action to implement the new law and working with the Department of Labor to implement the act while continuing to work tirelessly to process unemployment insurance claims caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

  • When can people expect to see the additional $600 in unemployment benefits?

TWC is taking action to implement the new law and working with the Department of Labor to implement the act while continuing to work tirelessly to process unemployment insurance claims caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

  • How does the [CARES Act] work for Texans?

People that qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation are eligible to receive $600 per week in addition to the person's regular unemployment compensation for people who are eligible for REGULAR state UI Benefits.

READ THE LAW.

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