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Unemployment Benefits Delayed

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-849169.mp3

Dallas, TX –

Benefit checks for some 15,000 unemployed Texans will be delayed beginning next week. KERA's Shelley Kofler reports thousands more may be affected in coming months.

The jobless Texans whose checks will be delayed are those who have received what was the maximum 59 weeks of unemployment compensation. Legislation passed by state lawmakers extends those benefits for 13 weeks, but Ann Hatchitt of the Texas Workforce Commission says the state hasn't had time to reprogram its computers.

Hatchitt: The change in the law just happened in May. And with people exhausting their benefits in July it was a very short time frame to get all the changes into our system.

Hatchitt says the commission is sending a letter to those affected explaining their benefits will eventually be paid though they may be several months late. Up to 82,000 could face this delay before the extended payments are finally in the mail.

In the meantime the Workforce Commission is nearly buckling under the growth in unemployment. The official number of jobless in Texas has grown some 58 percent over the past year.

The fund that pays claims would go broke this month without the federal no-interest loan the state will receive. The state will have to borrow a total of $643 million to cover claims through October.

Hatchitt says the commission has also added 300 call center workers to handle claims filed over the phone. But Hatchitt admits, callers are still stuck on hold.

Hatchitt: Sometimes as much as ten minutes of more but the other complication is if there are too many on hold someone might just get a message to call back later which is not what we want at all.

Hatchitt urges the unemployed to file claims online. The commission has set up a special email address where those who want to talk to a human can request a phone call.

Texas Workforce Commission Unemployment Info Page

Email Shelley Kofler