Everything You Need To Know About Unemployment Benefits In Texas During The Coronavirus Crisis
A woman walks past the U.S. Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
Hundreds of thousands of people have applied for unemployment benefits in Texas as shutdowns and stay-at-home orders necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus force businesses to close up shop.
Nearly 156,000 unemployment insurance claims were filed in the state last week, according to the Department of Labor. Thats more than 10 times the filings during the same week of 2019, and since the middle of last week, claims for unemployment benefits are nearing 30,000 per day, said Ed Serna, executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission, the agency that oversees the program
Texans have flooded the Texas Workforce Commissions phone lines and websites in the last two weeks on Sunday, the Serna said, more than 800,000 people attempted to get through the TWCs phone lines. About 100,000 were successful.
Here is how to apply for unemployment benefits in Texas, but be warned, the website and phone lines are overwhelmed. Still, Serna encouraged Texans to keep trying to get through, since the agency is making updates and increasing its capacity both online and by the phone every day.
How Texas Determines Benefit Amounts
Each state determines how much it will pay in unemployment benefits. Generally, the weekly benefit amount is some fraction or percentage of your earnings in the base period or your highest paid quarter of the base period.
In Texas, your weekly benefit amount will be your wages in the highest paid quarter of the base period divided by 25.
- what to do if your application is denied.
Here are three things to keep in mind as you get started:
What State Has The Highest Unemployment Pay
If you look at the states with the highest average weekly unemployment payment, Massachusetts and Hawaii are nearly tied at just under $475 each. Massachusetts offers a whopping $855 per week as its maximum benefit, while Hawaiis maximum payment is $648.
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What Do I Need To Know About Work Search Requirements
As of Nov. 1, the TWC has reinstated work search requirements. This means most people must take steps to return to work while receiving unemployment benefits.
Your local workforce area gets to determine the number of searches required where you live based on local COVID-19 numbers and hospitalizations. You can check how many searches are required in your county here.
Eligibility For Unemployment For Texas Teachers
Like other laid off or furloughed workers, public and private school teachers in Texas are eligible to receive state unemployment benefits to assist them while they look for a new position. The Texas Workforce Commission allows teachers to qualify for unemployment benefits, as their employers typically contribute funding to the benefits pool. Teachers must meet the same eligibility requirements as any other unemployed worker in the state, and receive benefits on par with other similar workers.
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Why Was My Texas Unemployment Claim Denied
You may not be able to collect unemployment insurance benefits in Texas if any of the following apply:
- You were fired for job-related misconduct that includes violating company policies, violating the law, or failing to do your job when you were able to do so.
- You quit your job. To remain eligible, you need to have a good reason for doing so. This may be due to employer misconduct, engaging in illegal activities, or being asked to do something that is morally or ethically wrong. You may also use domestic violence or stalking as a reason that you left your job, and still be able to collect benefits.
- You do not have adequate documentation that explicitly spells out your reason for not continuing with your employer. To help justify your claim, you may need to produce a doctors note, a restraining order, or other similar documentation that supports your claim for not continuing to work.
- You quit because of a spouses job transfer, unless your spouse is in the military, in which case you may be eligible for benefits immediately.
Were you denied for Texas unemployment? Contact a Texas unemployment office for more information about how to appeal or to find out how to reinstate your benefits.
Can I Draw Partial Unemployment In Texas
The Texas Unemployment Compensation Act establishes the rights that claimants have for receiving unemployment benefits. Under the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act, the Texas Workforce Commission can provide benefits to partially unemployed workers in addition to totally unemployed workers.
In Texas, unemployed or partially employed applicants are eligible for benefits if they are unemployed or partially employed through no fault of their own, continue to look for other work and report all hours worked each week they apply for unemployment insurance benefits. As codified in Title 4 of the Texas Labor Code, Subtitle A, the state limits unemployment benefits to workers who are actively engaged in searching for other work and were not terminated for cause and did not voluntarily terminate employment without good cause.
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Information You Need To Apply
You will need:
- Your last employers business name, address and phone number
- First and last dates you worked for your last employer. If you worked for your last employer on more than one occasion, provide the most recent employment dates.
- Number of hours worked and pay rate if you worked the week you apply for benefits
- Information about the normal wage for the job you are seeking
- Alien Registration number
- A valid Texas Driver License number or Texas Identification Card number
How Do I Contact Texas Unemployment
For help with applying for unemployment benefits, contact the TWC at the following numbers.
Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- You can get general information
- Check the status of your claim
- Request payment and other options daily
Available 7 A.M. to 6 P.M.
Texas Unemployment Debit Card Help
Unemployment Claims Appeals Fax Numbers:
- Appeal Tribunal 512-475-1135
- Online: ui.texasworkforce.org
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Your Work Search Responsibilities
To receive unemployment insurance benefits, you must seek work with at least three potential employers each week and maintain a detailed and verifiable record of your work search. If you cannot prove you looked for work, you may be considered overpaid and required to repay benefits.
My Boss Told Me I Needed To Come Back To Work But I Am Considered High
The TWC has said that workers can refuse an offer to return to work and still receive unemployment benefits in the following situations:
They or someone they live with is 65 years or older.
They have a medical issue, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or a weakened immune system, or are at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID19 .
They live with someone who is at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 .
They have tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and have not recovered.
They live with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and that person has not recovered and 14 days have not yet passed.
They were exposed to COVID-19 through close contact and are quarantining for 14 days.
They are the primary caregiver for a child they live with, and that childs school or daycare has closed and there are no alternatives.
The TWC has said that any other situation would be looked at on a case-by-case basis. If you have a question about your particular situation affecting your eligibility for unemployment, please call TRLA. We can help you try to figure out whether you may be able to stay on unemployment, and also whether you have the right to paid or unpaid leave. For more information about paid or unpaid leave that might be available to you, please visit our website.
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A Family Member Is Still Recovering From Covid But My Boss Told Me I Need To Return To Work If I Refuse Can I Still Get Unemployment Benefits
Yes. However, there are conditions you have to meet to remain eligible for unemployment benefits:
The family member must live with you
The family member must have tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas
The family member must not yet have recovered and
14 days must not yet have passed.
I Feel Like Ive Tried Everything And I Still Cant Get My Claim Sorted Out What Can I Do
If all else fails: Ask again, but louder.
Houston resident Kimberly Lantz suggests calling your local representatives office. After she was laid off from her job as a hotel sales manager in March, she filed for unemployment right away, but the TWC denied her claim for regular benefits because of an issue with her recent work history.
For the next seven months, she would try in bursts to get in touch with the workforce commission to find out whether she qualified for pandemic assistance. But she could never get through. It wasnt until she called state Rep. Ed Thompsons office in October to discuss her situation that she got an answer from the TWC. Within a week, $20,000 of backpay was deposited into her account.
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Last Worked For A Temporary Agency
To be eligible for benefits, each time you complete a full-time or part-time assignment for a temporary help agency you must:
- Contact the temporary help agency according to the agency guidelines no later than the next business day.
- Allow the temporary help agency three business days after your last assignment ends to offer you a new assignment before you apply for benefits. Waiting three days does not apply if you have an active claim and are submitting payment requests.
Temporary help agencies are required to tell you the following:
- You must contact the temporary help agency immediately after the completion of each assignment to receive another assignment.
- You may not qualify for unemployment benefits if you do not follow all of the temporary help agencys procedures.
Apply for benefits in one of two ways:
Can I Draw Unemployment Benefits If I Quit
You can collect unemployment benefits if you quit your job for a good well-documented work-related or medical reason. You should be ready to present proof that you tried to correct the problem before you quit.
TWC may rule good cause if the work situation would cause a person who truly wants to keep the job to leave it.
Examples of possible good cause are:
- Unsafe working conditions
- Significant change in hiring agreement
- not receiving payment for your work
Examples of medical reasons are
You can also collect unemployment benefits if:
You quit to protect yourself from family violence or stalking, evidenced by an active or recently issued protective order, a police record documenting family violence or stalking directed against you, or medical documentation of family violence against you.
If you quit to move with your husband or wife, you may be able to receive benefits after a disqualification of 6 to 25 weeks. This is a disqualification of both time and money, because the unemployment office must subtract the number of weeks from your total benefits.
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What Other Resources Can Help Me Through This Process
Here are other places Texans have gone to get their questions answered throughout the process of applying for assistance during the pandemic:
- Texas RioGrande Legal Aid provides free civil legal services to low-income Texans, including legal assistance navigating unemployment claims. The organization can be reached at 888-988-9996.
- Online communities. Texans have created social networks to support and help one another. The TWC warns to be aware of possible scammers that could be lurking in these online communities.
How Do I Know If Im On An Extension
If youre currently on an extension, your online account will indicate that you claim Temporary Unemployment Benefits. To check, visit your claim and payment status page and look directly beneath the Claim Information header. If your claim type is still listed as Regular Unemployment Benefits, click the link directly above the Claim Information header that says Select another claim to view. This should bring up any other claims you have, including any possible extensions.
If you dont have access to the internet, check the documentation sent to you in the mail by the TWC.
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I Cant Get Through To The Twc How Do I Get In Touch
Use the internet when possible. Melissa Jacobs, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, recommends filing your claim online and getting in the habit of checking your account regularly to stay on top of notices from the TWC. The TWC offers instructions on how to:
If you dont have access to the internet or need to talk to someone, you can try calling 800-939-6631, the TWCs main line for unemployment claims. But be prepared to wait anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Jacobs recommends calling your local workforce office first and asking to be put into the hold queue for unemployment benefits if the call taker cant help you. Some Texans, like Ozona resident Sean Sanchez, 52, have had luck in recent months calling TWCs main line first thing in the morning. Start calling at 7 a.m. on the dot, Sanchez advised.
Request a call through the live chat function on the TWC website. At the bottom of the homepage, a virtual assistant can help answer common questions about TWC services. Check back in if you dont receive a call within a couple of days. Some people say they never heard back. NOTE: If you request a call, the TWC may try to get in touch with you from a number you dont recognize or that appears on your phone as unknown. The agency also recommends making sure your voicemail inbox is not full.
How Much Will You Receive In Unemployment Benefits In Texas
The Texas Workforce Commission determines your benefit amount based on your earnings during the highest paid quarter of the base period. Your weekly benefit amount is your highest quarter earnings divided by 25, up to a current maximum amount of $535 per week. Learn more at the TWCs Eligibility and Benefit Amounts page.
Texas also has a maximum total amount of unemployment benefits: either 26 weeks’ worth of benefits, or 27% of your entire base period wages, whichever is less.
In times of very high unemployment, the state might make additional benefits available if you use up all of your regular benefits.
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Do I Have To Take Apply For And Accept Any Job Im Offered
No. You only have to apply for and accept suitable work. Generally, this means you dont have to accept work that is significantly different from the type of work you did before. Generally, if you worked in a job that required a specific education or training, you do not have to accept jobs outside your field. Or if you have years of experience in your field, you do not necessarily have to accept an entry level job, even if it is in the same field. You also dont have to accept a job that pays significantly less than you made before. If you have been unemployed for less than eight weeks, you do not have to take a job that would pay less than 90% of what you made before. But after you have been unemployed for eight weeks, you must accept jobs that pay at least 75% percent of what you made before. You also do not have to accept a job that would not be within a normal commuting distance from where you livehowever, the TWC may determine what a reasonable commute is differently than you would.
Work Search Requirements In Texas
To remain eligible for benefits in Texas, you must be able and available to work, and you must be actively seeking work. Within three business days of applying for benefits, you will need to register for WorkInTexas, the states work search program. After you apply, the TWC will tell you how many work search activities you must complete each week to keep getting benefits. Although you dont necessarily have to hand in documentation of your job search, the TWC can require you to provide the information at any timeand if you dont have it, you will lose your benefits. The TWCs website has detailed information about the states work search rules.
Once you file your initial claim, you will have to request benefits every two weeks, either online or by phone. You will have to provide information regarding your availability to work, your job search, and any work you did during the two-week period covered by the claim.
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