Texas Workforce Commission answers questions on current delay of unemployment benefits

Posted at 3:31 PM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 18:28:00-04

The numbers aren't getting any better - more than 26 million Americans have now lost their jobs since the pandemic began.

As Texas looks to re-open, many people are still weeks, if not months, away from truly getting back on their feet.

Filing for unemployment and actually getting a check can be confusing & frustrating, so we went to the boss of the state's unemployment agency to get some answers.

“Let me personally apologize for the delays you’re experiencing. We’re as frustrated, if not more frustrated, than you because we know we can help you,” Ed Serna with the Texas Workforce Commission told us last week.

Serna is the executive director of the agency. We asked him if he was seeing a particular area with more unemployment filings or if it was statewide.

“It’s completely widespread. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” he said.

Last week alone, more than 435,000 Texans filed for unemployment.

The state has dolled out a staggering $2 billion in benefits since the start of the pandemic.

But 25 News has profiled Central Texans navigating a confusing out-of-work process only to then wait weeks for a check.

Serna said their staff has expanded to around 1,500, and they're looking to expedite call times and online applications.

“We understand this isn’t just money, it’s a lifeline. You’re our neighbors and we care about our neighbors," said Serna. "It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”

Right now, Serna says the average unemployment payout is in the $200-$300 a week range, plus an additional $600 a week authorized by congress through the Cares Act. While those that are self-employed aren't typically eligible for benefits, they can now receive up to $600 in that extra pandemic assistance if they file through Texas Workforce.

If you're having trouble, consider these steps:

*Start the process online & try overnight when there's far less web traffic.

*Once you file a claim, remember to request payment at your designated time.

*If you prefer to call, try earlier or later on a weekend 1-800-939-6631. There are now eight call centers operating seven days a week starting at 7 a.m.