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Texas Unemployment Claims Swamp State Agency

A food truck court in Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
A food truck court in Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.

From Texas Standard:

If you've been unable to get through – either by phone or computer – to file an unemployment claim in Texas, you're not alone.

The state's unemployment agency -- the Texas Workforce Commission -- has been slammed with calls and online users since because of job losses caused by the coronavirus-related business shutdowns. Last week more than a million people called the agency during several 24-hour periods. Before COVID-19 appeared in the United States two months ago, the largest number of calls the agency would handle was 60,000, according to Cisco Gamez, the agency's spokesman.

In the past two weeks, the agency has moved more than 300 employees into the division now processing unemployment claims for Texans to handle the surge.

"We want to help every Texan in need and if they qualify for unemployment insurance, they will receive benefits," Gamez told Texas Standard in an interview that aired Friday. So far, more than 250,000 claims have been processed in the last 19 days.

In 2019, TWC handled 700,000 unemployment claims.

Gamez urged those who have been unable to get through the agency's call center or access the website, to keep trying. "I know it's frustrating that there's some people running into busy lines ... but we are making adjustments, we are making changes. We will help them," he says.

Before COVID-19, Texans were only able to get payments from the time their claim was filed. But because of the state's emergency declaration, Texans who lost their job and qualify for unemployment insurance payments will be able to get coverage starting on the day of their job loss.

"We are backdating those claims to the date of their job separation back until about March 8," Gamez says.

Once a claim has been filed, it can take up to 21 days on average to receive an employment payment either by direct deposit or in the mail on a debit card.

"We're going to help everyone in need," Gamez says.

To file a claim, go to the Texas Workforce Commission's website or call 800-939-6631.

Written by Terri Langford.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Terri Langford