The agency will date the payments of unemployment benefits from the termination of the worker’s job, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
The Texas Workforce Commission usually pays unemployment benefits the week the claimants file their claim, according to the agency’s website and a previous TWC statement. However, as the Houston Chronicle reported on Monday, this procedure would mean that many people would miss payments because state websites and telephone lines are so overwhelmed that thousands of people have trouble submitting their requests. during the first week of their unemployment.
Calls to the Texas Workforce Commission, which administers unemployment benefits, hit “millions” in a week, state officials said on Wednesday as business closings to slow the spread of the virus leave hundreds of thousands of unemployed Texans.
On HoustonChronicle.com: Texas unemployment claims are expected to exceed all of 2019 in a matter of weeks
Agency spokesman Cisco Gamez said in a statement that unemployment benefits would now go back to the week of termination, not when the claimant filed for benefits.
“We find claims and backdate those claims,” said Gamez. “We also inform individuals if we have their email address. “
The stimulus package adopted by Congress requires that unemployment benefits for coronavirus claims be paid retroactively. The law, which was passed last week, adds $ 600 a week in addition to what Texas and other states typically provide.
The TWC said that Governor Greg Abbott’s disaster order authorizes the agency to backdate the claims.
If claimants applied for unemployment before the stimulus package was adopted, they do not need to reapply to receive federal benefits. The TWC has stated that it will notify those eligible for additional benefits by mail or email.
The agency said in a statement on Wednesday that it is committed to responding to each case, “as soon as possible” to ensure that each eligible claimant receives benefits.
“Our top priority is to clear the backlog, get the Texans registered and on the road to getting the benefits they need,” said Ed Serna, executive director of TWC in a press release on Wednesday. “The weight of demand at this time is unprecedented. “
To help ease the pressure on call centers, Texas has launched an automated virtual assistant to help Texans purchase unemployment insurance. The chatbot can answer common questions about the unemployment benefit process.
The state has also hired new workers, reassigned staff from other departments, and added new phone lines.