The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has hit the pause button on its decision to reinstate the work-search requirement for out of work Texans seeking unemployment benefits.
With COVID-19 daily new cases surging and a steady rise during June of patients hospitalized with coronavirus, the TWC announced on June 30 that it was pausing the planned work-search requirement reinstatement.
In mid-June, the TWC had announced that starting July 6 Texans would once again have to prove they are actively searching for employment to receive their unemployment benefits from the state.
Ed Serna, TWC Executive Director, wrote in a release: “Due to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Texas, TWC has decided to pause the return of work search requirements at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation and make further recommendations in late July.”
The TWC initially decided to reinstate the work-search requirement after it had been waved during the coronavirus pandemic which has seen 3.6 million Texans file for unemployment since mid-March with $16.1 billion paid out in employment benefits, according to a TWC release.
The three-month plus unemployment spike came as much of Texas business shut down and amounted to four years total of average unemployment claims.
The unemployment rate in Texas in May was 13 percent, up almost 10 percent from May 2019 when it was 3.4 percent. The May rate was a slight dip from the record-high of 13.5 percent in April 2020.
The Texas May unemployment figures did trigger another benefit extension period for those out of work, the third such extension since the coronavirus pandemic started in March.
Texas Unemployment Benefits Extended Again
Normal Texas unemployment benefits run for 26 weeks but the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March extended that to 39 weeks with an additional 13 weeks.
In June, another 13-week extension was added under state extended benefits (State EB) to increase the number of weeks available to out of work Texans to 52 weeks total.
In a July 1 release the TWC announced that Texans are now eligible for an additional seven weeks of benefits or 59 weeks total as the state was told by the federal Department of Labor that it qualified for High Unemployment Period (HUP).
The first 13-week extension was triggered on March 26, 2020 by the CARES Act. On May 31, Texas qualified for the second 13-week extension of unemployment benefits under State EB starting July 4. The additional seven weeks of benefits under HUP will take effect on Oct. 3.
TWC wrote that “HUP was triggered when the seasonally adjusted total unemployment rates exceeded 8 percent and were greater than 110 percent of the corresponding rate in both prior years.”
Both the State EB and HUP benefits will remain available so long as the Texas economy triggers them.
Under the CARES Act the maximum benefits per week has been raised from $521 to $1,121 in Texas but the extra $600 or Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) runs out on July 25, 2000 unless extended by Congress.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
The federally funded Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program extended unemployment benefits to Texans for an additional 13 weeks after they have exhausted their regular 26 weeks of eligibility under regular benefits.
That 39 weeks of benefits was extended to 52 weeks with the State EB extension of 13 weeks, and now potentially stretches to 59 weeks with HUP.
The last payable week for the PEUC will be Dec. 26, 2020.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
Another federally funded program is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistant (PUA) program which is aimed at providing compensation to those not normally covered by unemployment benefits such as those that are self-employed or involved in the gig economy.
Benefits under PUA can be received for up to 46 weeks now, initial 39 weeks in CARES Act plus HUP seven weeks, with the last payable week Dec. 26, 2020.