As the US gradually starts to reopen, the number of new unemployment claims is slowly starting to taper off. Or at least, it is in most states. In Texas, however, the numbers continue to rise, with more than 100,000 applying for unemployment benefits in the week ending 30 May alone. According to federal data, at least 2.3 million Texans have become unemployed since COVID began, meaning that a worrying 20 percent of the state’s labor force of 13 million is now out of a job. For those that have lost their income as a result of the crisis, unemployment benefits can provide a vital stopgap until new employment becomes available. Due to recent changes in eligibility requirements, it’s worth looking into even if you wouldn’t previously have been able to collect. Here’s what you need to do to file for unemployment in Texas.
Do I Qualify for Unemployment?
To apply for unemployment in Texas, you’ll be expected to comply with basic eligibility requirements. This means you’ll be able to collect benefits if:
- You lost your job through no fault of your own.
- You’re legally authorized to work in North America.
- Your most recent employer was based in Texas (if you worked out of state, file for employment in the state you worked, rather than the one you live).
- You are ready, willing, and available to work.
- You have earned enough over the base period (the first 4 of the last 5 completed quarters prior to your claim) to satisfy minimum income requirements.
In light of the COVID crisis, TWC has waived the work search requirements for all claimants and the waiting week (i.e. the week you are expected to wait before becoming eligible for payment) for those claimants affected by COVID-19. If you have been mandated to quarantine, have a sick family member, if your employer closes the business and does not pay you during the business closure and does not allow you to use paid leave to cover the time off, or if you have been asked to reduce your hours, you may be eligible for full or partial unemployment, depending on your current income.
How Do I File For Unemployment in Texas?
As recommended by the Texas Workforce Commission make sure you have the following information to hand before getting started on your claim:
- Last employer’s business name and address
- First and last dates (month, day and year) you worked for your last employer
- Number of hours worked and pay rate if you worked this week (including Sunday)
- Information related to your normal wage
- Alien Registration Number (if not a U.S. citizen or national)
Once you’ve gathered all the required information, head to the Unemployment Benefits Portal to file your claim online. If you don’t have access to a computer, you can file by phone on 800-939-6631 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you chose to file by phone, be aware that due to the high volume of claims currently being received, long hold times are to be expected. Once you’ve filed your initial claim, don’t sit back and relax just yet. In order to collect payment, you’ll need to submit a bi-weekly claim by either:
- Logging on to UBS and selecting ‘Request a Payment’.
- Calling Tele-Serv at 800-558-8321 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and selecting Option 1.
Due to the high volume of claims currently being received, the TWC asks that you file your payment request on a designated filing day, which will be stated on your filing instructions. If you forget to claim to your designated filing day, you can submit your payment request Thursday through Saturday. Don’t delay starting your weekly claims until the TWC determines your eligibility, as you won’t then be eligible to collect payment for any missed weeks.
How Much Will I Get in Unemployment?
In Texas, the minimum weekly unemployment benefit you can receive is $69 and the maximum is $521. How much you receive between these fixed amounts will depend on how much you earned during the base period. To calculate how much you’ll likely receive, divide your total earnings over the highest-earning quarter in the base period by 25 and round to the nearest dollar. In addition to the state entitlement, you’ll also receive an additional $600 per week under the CARES Act. The TWC will calculate your entitlement to the payment (which is payable for a total of 4 months, or until the end of July, whichever comes first) and issue payment alongside your usual UI payment.
How Long Can I Collect Unemployment?
Typically, the maximum you can collect benefits in Texas is 26 weeks. Further to the CARES Act, this was extended to 39 weeks in March. However, as the Houston Chronicle reports, another 13 weeks have now been applied, meaning applicants can continue to collect for a total of 52 weeks as of June 2020.
How Will I Be Paid?
When you make your initial application, you’ll be asked to confirm how you’d like to be paid. As it stands, you can choose to be paid either by:
- Direct deposit into your personal checking or savings account
- TWC-contracted bank-issued debit card
If you’d like to change the method of payment at any time, you can do so by either logging on to ui.texasworkforce.org and selecting ‘Payment Option; from the Quick Links menu or by calling Tele-Serv at 800-558-8321 and selecting option 5.
My Claim’s Been Denied. Can I Appeal?
After the TWC reviews your claim, they’ll issue a Notice of Determination stating their decision. If you disagree with one or more of the determinations, you can file an appeal within 14 days of the mailing date of the determination. The appeal can be made online, by fax, or by mail. Full details of what information will need to be included in the appeal, along with what you can expect of the process, will be included in the determination.