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COVID-19 Is Costing People Their Jobs. Here's How To Apply For Unemployment In Texas.

The City of Austin banned dining in at restaurants on Tuesday,
Julia Reihs
The City of Austin banned dining in at restaurants on Tuesday,

With much of Austin's service and entertainment sectors shut down and the ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic being felt across the local, state and national economy, people are being laid off.

Numbers from the Texas Workforce Commission show new unemployment claims between March 15 and March 18 were 11 times higher than the same period a year ago — 5,623 in 2019 vs. 61,541 in 2020.

The state has waived some requirements for getting unemployment benefits, including the requirement to search for a job and the so-called "waiting week," which delays payment of benefits, but navigating the system of applying for benefits is not always easy.

Are You Eligible?

The government takes a range of factors into consideration to determine if someone is eligible for benefits and how much money they'll get. If you were laid off or your hours were cut, you may be eligible for benefits. Workers who were fired or quit are still eligible in some situations.

How Much Does Unemployment Pay?

The amount of your unemployment benefits is based on your past wages. Your weekly benefit will be between $69 and $521, depending on what you were earning before you lost your job.

How Do You Apply?

You can apply for benefits online, in most cases. If you've never applied for unemployment in Texas, you'll need to create an online account here. Then complete the application.

The Workforce Commission has a detailed guide here.

The information you'll need could include:

  • Social Security number
  • Last employer's business name, address and phone number
  • First and last dates (month, day and year) you worked for your last employer
  • Number of hours you worked and your pay rate if you worked during the week you apply (including Sunday)
  • If applicable, military service start/end dates, and a copy of your DD Form 214(s)(member copy 4 through 8), if you served in the military during the past 18 months
  • Alien registration number (if not a U.S. citizen or national)

Once you complete the application, it can take up to four weeks to get an answer about your eligibility and benefit amount. There is an appeal process, if you are denied benefits.

What Then?

If you do get benefits, you're not done yet.

To continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be totally or partially unemployed (working part time) and:

  • Request payment for weeks of unemployment, when scheduled
  • Be physically and mentally able to work
  • Be available for full-time work
  • Participate in reemployment activities as required
  • Respond to requests from the Texas Workforce Commission

President Trump signed a multibillion-dollar emergency aid packageWednesday that expands unemployment assistance and boosts paid sick leave. The administration is meanwhile negotiating a $1 trillion economic stimulus plan that could provide $1,000 checks to every American adult in the coming weeks. 

Matt Largey is the Projects Editor at KUT. That means doing a little bit of everything: editing reporters, producing podcasts, reporting, training, producing live events and always being on the lookout for things that make his ears perk up. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mattlargey.
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