The agency that handles Texas' unemployment benefits system says the situation unfolding because of the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything it has ever dealt with before.
On a normal day, one of the Texas Workforce Commission's four call centers gets around 13,000 calls. But on March 22 alone, one of the centers received 100,000 calls, Executive Director Ed Serna said during a Facebook Live video Wednesday.
Many people have reported they’re having trouble accessing the agency’s online portal and call centers in recent days. Serna said that’s because of the influx of people flooding these systems.
“We know it is very frustrating, and it is also at times very scary for individuals who have been let go from work, oftentimes for the first time let go from work,” Serna said. “I assure you that we will help everyone that needs help.”
Watch the Facebook Live video here:
Serna said the agency is working to expand its server capacity and hire more workers to take calls. He said if people are having trouble getting through to a call center, they should try calling again at a different time.
The agency is hoping to see improvements in days, he said, not weeks or months.
“Please continue to attempt to access us online or via the phone,” he said.
Everyone who needs unemployment benefits should be able to get them, Serna assured. He said people should not worry about the agency running out of funding during this time.
“There are funds there now, and as we deplete it, we will turn to other sources to make sure the individuals who need help get the help that they need,” he said.
TWC is also expanding beyond its normal Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., hours. Starting this weekend, it will be open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Serna said the agency is also transferring staff from other departments to its call centers. He said 200 employees were transferred to these centers Tuesday. The TWC is also looking to hire 100 temp workers to take calls as well.
Serna said 75% of the commission’s employees are working from home during the pandemic. Some jobs are not conducive to working from home, he said, including those at the call center. But the agency is looking into ways to have these people work from home.