Has COVID-19 Impacted Your Job in Texas? Here’s What You Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits

Chang Fu
April 13, 2020

In the last week alone 6.6 million Americans were forced to file for unemployment due to the effects of the novel coronavirus. With more to come in the weeks ahead, state unemployment offices are finding themselves more strained than at any point in history, and they are falling further behind by the hour.

The office tasked with disbursing unemployment benefits in Texas, known as the TWC, is experiencing a tremendous backlog of unprocessed claims, forcing them into a desperate hunt for short-term solutions. As frustration and worry continue to mount in the hearts and minds of unemployed Texans, the TWC’s extra work is beginning to bear fruit with the forthcoming addition of 400 new phone lines being added to the call center. 

Whether you find yourself among those already feeling vexed by the system, or you are diving in for the first time, be assured that help is on the way, and we’ll explain how best to get it.

How To Apply For Unemployment In Texas

To begin to apply for benefits in Texas, you will need to visit the homepage of the Texas Workforce Commission. This page has details on all services the TWC has to offer, including Texas unemployment benefits. From there, select the link from the upper right-hand portion of the home page labeled “unemployment benefits services”. This will take you to a page with links to every step you need to enroll for unemployment Texas-style.

Unemployment Benefits Texas

Before you will be able to log into the system and request aid, you will need to create a profile with the department. There is a link to do just that located at the bottom of the page, and there’s a tutorial to help you through this short process.

Details to Keep In Mind

Once you have registered your profile with the TWC, you will be ready to start your application. However, there are a few important details to keep in mind as you navigate the process. 

  • First and foremost, remember that any information you enter will not be saved if you log out before you receive confirmation of completion.
  • There is a time limit for inaction built into the site. If you do not use any of the action keys (“next”, “previous”, or “submit”) for a period of 30 minutes, the system will automatically log you out and all information already entered will be lost. If this happens, you will be forced to start over from scratch.
  • Carefully read all instructions. The department does the best they can to ensure that all instructions and processes are as succinct and streamlined as possible. Failure to adhere to all guidelines will result in delays and/or penalties down the road.
  • Complete each page thoroughly. The TWC is here to help you, and every piece of information you provide helps them in doing so.
  • Items marked with a red asterisk are required. Without these pieces of information, the TWC can not process your application and you will not receive benefits.
  • You must certify the Truth in Filing statement. This is a legally binding document which we will touch on in detail later.
  • Do not log off or exit your browser window until you have received a confirmation number. Your filing for unemployment is not complete until confirmation has been issued. 
  • Use only the action buttons provided on the TWC website to navigate between pages. The “next” and “previous” buttons at the bottom of each screen allow you to switch to other pages without losing input information. Using your browser’s back/forward arrows will cause input information to be lost.

My Home Page

At this point, you will have access to your profile’s home page. The left-hand column of this page holds a list of quick links for easy access to information regarding available jobs, job training, and career development, among other resources. There is also a link that allows you to update your personal and profile information. For those who have yet to file a claim, the “Payment Request” link will get you started.

Staggered Access Times

For security reasons, there is a step in the claim process that will require you to make a phone call to the WTC call center directly. This is intended as another line of verification to protect your personal information and guard against fraud. However, given the climate created by the current COVID-19 pandemic, this requirement has proven to do more harm than good. 

During the first week of April, the TWC received an influx of nearly 362,000 new unemployment claims, of which they were able to process only 156,000. An enormous amount of strain has been put on the department by this unprecedented wave; so much that it has extended beyond their ability to keep up. Clogged phone lines have become the source of great frustration amongst unemployed Texans, so, in order to stem citizens’ concern, the TWC has come up with a system for staggering access times based on area code. Here is how they have broken it down:

Area Code of Applicant Suggested Call Time

Area Codes beginning with 9 Mon-Wed-Fri 8:00 a.m. – Noon

Area Codes beginning with 3, 4, 5,6 Mon-Wed-Fri 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Area codes beginning with 7, 8 Tues-Thurs-Sat  8:00 a.m. – Noon 

Area codes beginning with 2 Tues-Thurs-Sat 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Truth In Filing

The Truth in Filing agreement requires that all information provided on your behalf regarding personal details and payment requests is true, accurate, and complete. 

Signing the agreement certifies that you, the claimant, are accountable for certain items specified in the Unemployment Benefits Handbook and that you will not attempt to commit unemployment fraud under penalty of legal action. The agreement further specifies that your username and password carry the same legal authority as your personal signature and advises strongly against sharing these details with anyone. 

This is to protect you from anyone attempting to commit fraud under your name. Your signature on the Truth in Filing agreement is required to receive benefits.

Payment Request

To fill out a “payment request” simply means to apply for unemployment Texas-style. This page has four sections; each requiring your attention, and possibly, action. 

  • Payment Request Period The initial portion shows the period of unemployment for which you wish to be compensated. Ensure that this is accurate before proceeding. 
  • Outline of Payment Options – The next portion outlines the methods you may use for receipt of benefits. If you are issuing your first payment request, the default payment method will be a debit card issued by US Bank. If it is not your first request, you may add payment information to receive a direct deposit to an existing bank account.
  • Payment Selection In this field, you will select your preferred method of payment. If you opt to change your payment method from debit card to direct deposit, you must provide your routing number, account number, and type of account you would like funds to be directed to.
  • Mailing Address The last portion allows you the option to adjust your mailing address if it is different from the billing address provided earlier.

Also, note that any change to your payment selection will require your account’s personal identification number (PIN) and certification that you have read the US Bank Debit Card Fee schedule. This is to ensure your personal security and that you accept responsibility for any fees you might incur as a result of a fee schedule violation.

Work And Other Income Worksheet

The next worksheet will ask you to report and log any work you may have completed in the time since you became unemployed. All paid work must be reported, no matter how menial. Failure to report paid work may result in fraud penalties. You will also be required to report any other form of pay you may have received via:

  • Vacation Pay
  • Holiday Pay
  • Severance Pay
  • Wages paid instead of a notice of layoff
  • Retirement Pensions
  • Disability insurance
  • Military retirement 
  • Military disability pay
  • Worker’s compensation

Once you have entered and submitted all information regarding income, the TWC will make a decision on your eligibility for benefits and mail notice of your awards. If there are any discrepancies between your report and that of your former employer(s), you may be asked to provide additional information.

Eligibility Requirements For Texas Unemployment Benefits

Under normal circumstances, the schedule of eligibility requirements to receive unemployment benefits has two overarching requirements: you must be able to work, and you must be available to work. The TWC goes on to break them down a bit further in order to clarify these requirements for claimants.

For a claimant to be “able” and “available”, they must be:

  • Able to work both physically and mentally
  • Healthy enough both physically and mentally to perform the work tasks
  • Available for the work they are filing for.

This availability includes then:

  • Having the right transportation
  • Having childcare arranged (if children are present in the household)
  • Being available for interviews
  • Being available for the work they’re seeking
  • Accepting of the usual pay rate for the job

Exceptions To Eligibility Requirements

Under the current circumstances, it is important to note that many of these requirements are subject to being waived. For instance, it is highly unlikely that you will be required to make yourself available for potential job interviews. Rest assured with the knowledge that TWC representatives have your health and best interests at heart in making their judgments.

Federal Assistance Program

On March 27, 2020, a bi-partisan federal aid bill passed by Congress was signed into law by President Trump. This accord, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability Act (commonly known as CARES) is loaded with $2.2 trillion in federal funding to aid every American worker unemployed to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The intention is for every citizen to qualify for unemployment under the current conditions to receive $600 per week in addition to the weekly benefit awarded by the state. The hope is that every American will be able to feed themselves, their families, and help fortify the U.S. economy.

CARES Act Eligibility, Disbursement, and Timeline

The CARES Act was designed with features that aim to deliver aid to the American people as simply and expeditiously as possible. 

  • Eligibility – Any citizen who is deemed eligible to receive aid from their state unemployment office is automatically eligible for benefits under the CARES Act. There is no additional application required. Once you have completed your application with the WTC, you will be automatically enrolled for federal aid.
  • Disbursement – The disbursement channel for federal funds will be the same as those set up by each state government. This means that whichever payment method you choose for your state disbursement will be the one used to disburse federal awards.
  • Timeline One of the most helpful features of the bill is that it extends the period you are eligible to receive funds 13 weeks beyond the limit set by each state government. Regardless of when your state eligibility runs out, you will receive federal aid to the tune of $600 per week for the following 13 weeks, so long as the end of the period falls on or before December 31, 2020. 

Additional Financial Support

If for some reason you are deemed ineligible to receive unemployment benefits by the TWC, or the benefits received are not enough to cover your expenses, keep in mind that there are options for COVID financial support and relief in the private sector as well. 

Numerous entities, including professional guilds and religious institutions, have begun raising funds for those in need. There are also businesses like Possible Finance willing to make alternative payday loans with minimal eligibility requirements to help you put food on the table, even when traditional banks may be unable. 

Take heart in knowing that financial resources are available for you and your family, and with due diligence, you will get the help you need.

Sources: 

Texas Workforce Commission. Homepage. https://www.twc.texas.gov/

Texas Workforce Commission. How To Request Benefits Payments Online. https://www.twc.texas.gov/files/jobseekers/request-benefit-payments-twc.pdf

Texas Workforce Commission. Request A Payment. https://www.twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services#applyForBenefits

Texas Workforce Commission. Staggered Access Times. https://www.twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services#staggeredAccessTimes
Tax Foundation. Congress Approves Economic Relief Plan for Individuals and Businesses. https://taxfoundation.org/cares-act-senate-coronavirus-bill-economic-relief-plan/

Chang Fu

Chang is an avid writer, among other things, at Possible. He grew up loving reading and writing, creating his own poems and even a book he's now hidden in an old closet, unpublished. His financial experience at a large bank along with his passion for technology to help underserved communities inspires him to write for Possible.

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