Texas Workforce Commission working to improve system as unemployment claims spike

The Texas Workforce Commission said Wednesday it is getting 30,000 unemployment claims per day.

The head of the organization hosted a Facebook live event as economic forecasters predict Texas’ unemployment rate could be moving towards nine percent or even higher.

Thousands of Texans are trying to make an unemployment claim, but many expressed frustration during the Q&A because the system seems to be overwhelmed at times and they can't get through.

“So far in the past week we've had an increase of 150,000 claims,” said executive director Ed Serna.

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He said in a week and a half the agency went from 3,000 claims per day to nearly 30,000 per day.

Serna explained the system has simply been overwhelmed, but they are working to expand technology being used and call capacity.

He also detailed some changes to help people out.

There is no provision for increasing the current 26 weeks of payments of unemployment compensation, but the work search requirement has been eliminated. That means people don't have to show proof right now that they have been out each week looking for work.

The one week wait before benefits start once someone signs up has also been waived.

If people owe money to the state because they were overpaid in a previous claim for unemployment benefits, the state will not collect that or deduct that from benefits coming because of COVID-19.

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Serna said there was enough money on hand to pay out unemployment, even with all the new claims.

“If necessary we will we will seek additional funding from the federal government to ensure that everybody that needs benefits, you should not have to worry. That is one of the things you should not have to worry,” Serna said.

Serna added that, under current Texas law, there is no provision to provide unemployment benefits for independent contract employees or the self-employed. He did say there's legislation that speaks to those two groups working its way through Congress.