AUSTIN, Texas — Many Americans have been impacted as businesses close to prevent the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
As of March 23, Travis County was reporting 95 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
South by Southwest was one of the first Austin companies to announce layoffs after the event was canceled due to coronavirus concerns for the first time in its history. SXSW laid off a third of its year-round employees. Days later, the Circuit of the Americas confirmed to KVUE the company had to lay off employees because many of its events were canceled as well.
Some of the national retailers that have closed their doors include Macy's, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom.
"Our heart breaks for the Austin community and everything that’s happened. Starting with the SXSW cancelation, we’ve seen a cascade of companies that are impacted," said Tamara Atkinson, the CEO of Workforce Solutions Capital Area.
The nonprofit helps people come up with a career plan when they're worried about what to do next after they've been laid off.
Atkinson said there's been an uptick in people filing for unemployment insurance claims.
In February, she said the average number of claims filed for the Austin-Travis County areas was 60 to 80. Atkinson said, in the first two weeks of March, there were already 120 claims.
If your job was impacted, here's what you need to know, including how you can apply to receive help and benefits.
H-E-B needs help due to the demand and influx of shoppers. The Texas grocery chain announced it is hiring short-term employees, including cashiers and stockers. Here's a list:
- Bagger: $9.50 per hour
- Cashier: $13.50 per hour
- Daytime stocker: $13.50 per hour
- Overnight stocker: $15.00 per hour
Amazon is also hiring 100,000 people to keep up with orders. The online retailer is temporarily raising pay by $2 per hour through the end of April for hourly employees. To apply or for more information, go here.
Restaurant and bar employees
On March 17, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced all Austin bars and restaurant dining rooms must close to stop the spread of COVID-19.
People impacted by the new bar and restaurant orders are asked to visit the City of Austin's COVID-19 website for more information and to see additional services. Citizens can also contact 311 with questions about particular services. More resources are available here.
If you'd like to help Austin service workers, KVUE has a list of ways you can lend a helping hand.
These closures will be in effect until at least May 1, but restaurants are still allowed to offer drive-thru, to-go and delivery options.
How to file for unemployment in Texas
If you have been laid off amid COVID-19, you can apply for benefits online or by calling the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you experience long hold times because of the increase in calls, you can use an online claim portal, Unemployment Benefits Services, to handle your needs.
According to the TWC website, after you file a claim, it will "investigate why you lost your job and mail a decision explaining whether you are eligible for unemployment benefits."
TWC said it evaluates the unemployment benefits claim based on the following criteria:
- Past wages
- "Your past wages are one of the eligibility requirements and the basis of your potential unemployment benefit amounts. We use the taxable wages, earned in Texas, your employer(s) have reported paying you during your base period to calculate your benefits. If you worked in more than one state, see 'If You Earned Wages in More than One State.'"
- Types of job separation
- "To be eligible for benefits based on your job separation, you must be either unemployed or working reduced hours through no fault of your own. Examples include layoff, reduction in hours or wages not related to misconduct, being fired for reasons other than misconduct, or quitting with good cause related to work."
- Ongoing eligibility requirements
- "In addition to the past wages and job separation eligibility requirements, there are requirements you must continue to meet to stay eligible. See Ongoing Eligibility Requirements for Receiving Unemployment Benefits."
On March 17, Gov. Greg Abbott waived the 10-day investigation period for Texans applying for unemployment benefits, saying, "We want you to get your benefits ASAP."
"On average, payment from the unemployment benefit claims takes about 21 days," TWC said. "Some people may get it sooner, and it may take longer for others. The waiting week was waived so that people that qualified for unemployment insurance benefits can receive more funds quickly; the first payable week was. You can learn more about the waiting week here."
The TWC website has experienced issues lately, with pages not loading or the site not responding. On March 15, TWC said to continue to call or attempt accessing as they improve their ability to handle the influx in the coming days.
Regarding the availability of unemployment funds, on March 25, TWC said there is enough money to support those who need benefits.
U.S. residents may soon receive checks from the government. President Donald Trump said on March 17 he wants the government to send checks to Americans within the next two weeks in an effort to curb the economic cost of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin didn't give many details, but said the check amounts should be significant and that millionaires would not receive them.
On March 18, Mnuchin proposed delivering $500 billion in check payments.
If you didn't find all the answers you were looking for, contact TWC at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, go here.
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