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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
This availability includes then:
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.
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.
The CARES Act was designed with features that aim to deliver aid to the American people as simply and expeditiously as possible.
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.
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/