Last week, 350,000 more Texans filed for unemployment aid, bringing the total for the last four weeks to more than 760,000. That is more claims than were filed in all of last year. The numbers don’t accurately reflect how many people have been laid off or furloughed in Texas since the pandemic hit because there are thousands more who have been unable to get through to file their claims.
“I have made 1,157 calls since last Friday. There’s a constant busy signal, or I get cut off,” said Robert Davis, who was furloughed from his job with an arts handling, shipping and installation firm. “The online system indicates I need to talk to a human. On the phone, I get all the way through the automated questions and then the system cuts me off before I get to a human. It is so frustrating.”
The Texas Workforce Commission said it is adding phone lines and employees. In addition, Gov. Greg Abbott reported yesterday that about 250 Texas House and Senate staffers are on loan to TWC to help process claims.
It is important to apply as soon as you are unemployed.
Claimants are being asked to call on specific days that correspond to the first digit of their phone number.
· Area codes beginning with 9 should call Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 8 a.m. and noon.
· Area codes beginning with 3, 4, 5, or 6 should call Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 1 and 5 p.m.
· Area codes beginning with 7 or 8 should call Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday between 8 a.m. and noon.
· Area codes beginning with 2 should call Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday between 1 and 5 p.m.
How to apply
Apply for benefits in one of two ways:
· Apply online at Unemployment Benefit Services by selecting Apply for Benefits. Information about applying online is available in the Applying for Unemployment Benefits Tutorial.
· Call the Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 and speak to a customer service representative.
Information you will need to apply:
· Your last employer’s business name, address and phone number
· The first and last dates (month, day and year) you worked for your last employer. If you worked for your last employer on more than one occasion, provide the most recent employment dates.
· Number of hours worked and pay rate if you worked the week you apply for benefits (Sunday through Saturday)
· Information about the normal wage for the job you are seeking
· Alien registration number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
The federal stimulus package includes unemployment benefits for freelancers, the self-employed and others who aren’t usually eligible. In addition, those out of work due to the pandemic are in line for an extra $600 per week in benefits for four months.