The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) manages the states’ unemployment compensation program. This includes payments under many of the federally funded enhanced benefit programs which have been extended several times after enactment last year. See more on the relevant extensions/ unemployment stimulus programs, including an early end to these programs, in the relevant sections below.
Covered in this Article:
Extended State Benefits in Texas Activated and Being Paid by TWC
Despite Texas ending participation in federally funded unemployment programs after June 26, 2021, it appears the TWC have restarted auto-enrolling eligible claimants for State Extended Benefits (EB).
According to the TWC page the EB program extends regular unemployment benefits during high periods of unemployment. TWC can pay EB in periods of full federal funding when the total unemployment rate (TUR) is at least 6.5% and in periods of less than full federal funding when the insured unemployment rate (IUR) is 5% or more. As a result the EB is now in effect in Texas based on the latest unemployment rate of 6.5 percent.
TWC has already notified hundreds of claimants (and many were surprised based on comments I saw) and auto-enrolled them to receive benefits (no action was needed from the claimant). But note that the maximum number of weeks you can receive under the EB program is 13 weeks or up to 50% of the total amount of benefits you had on your most recent regular unemployment claim.
Payments will be made retroactively for the weeks you become eligible for the state EB program and will be noted in the correspondence from the TWC (check your UI portal as well). Also note that the extra $300 weekly payment (FPUC program) is not being paid with the EB unemployment since that program was terminated in June.
You will also need to continue certifying regularly and meet TWC work search requirements to get the EB payment as you would with regular unemployment insurance claims.
Texas Ending ALL Pandemic Unemployment Programs Early Including the $300 extra weekly payment
The TWC has stopped paying enhanced unemployment benefits, including the $300 supplementary payment, following Governor Greg Abbott’s directive ending Texas’ participation in these programs. These extra benefits ended as of the week ending June 26, 2021. This is approximately 10 weeks earlier than the planned end date of Sep 4th, 2021.
Texas joins several other states in ending payment of the supplementary $300 weekly benefit for unemployed workers with active claims and processing of new claims under the PUA and PEUC programs. The argument for ending enhanced benefits early was that the payments discouraged unemployed workers from returning to work due to the normal wage differential.
What if I have a balance remaining after week ending June 26th?
Many claimant’s TWC portal is still showing “Temporary Unemployment Benefits” with a certain balance remaining. Unfortunately from June 27th, 2021 this won’t mean anything as the balances would only be valid if the programs were active.
The TWC has to keep providing claim balances due to several lawsuits trying to reinstate benefits and reverse Gov. Abbot’s termination directive. However this does not mean that future pandemic claims will be paid by the TWC.
Traditional state unemployment benefits and retroactive benefit payments however will continue to be processed and paid for eligible claimants.
Return to Work Bonus For Texan Workers
In addition to ending pandemic unemployment benefits, the Texas Congress has proposed a back-to-work bonus. This includes a one-time payment of either $1,200 (full-time) or $600 (part-time) to unemployed workers that get a job and with verifiable earnings by July 1, 2021.
Unemployment Program Extensions Under Biden ARP Stimulus Package
Under President Biden’s $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan (ARP), enhanced unemployment benefits will be extended until September 6th (or week ending September 4th in Texas). This includes the following extensions:
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – The PUA program, designed for freelancers, gig workers and independent contractors or those that generally don’t qualify for regular state unemployment, has been extended by another until September 6th, 2021 (week ending Sep 4th in Texas). This brings the total number of weeks in the program to 79. The minimum PUA payment is still 50% of a states average weekly benefit amount and limited to the state’s maximum weekly benefit amount (WBA).
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – The new stimulus bill funds another 25 weeks of weekly supplementary/extra unemployment at the current $300 level. Payments for the $300 weekly payment will continue until early September for a total of 25 weeks and eligible claimants – those getting at least $1 from state and federal unemployment programs – can get a maximum of $7,500 if they qualify for all weeks covered in this new extension. The other $100 supplementary payment for Mixed Earners (MEUC) was also extended by 25 weeks.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – The PEUC program, which extends coverage for those who have exhausted regular and extended state unemployment, has also been extended until September 4th, bringing the total amount of PEUC coverage to 53 weeks.
There also provisions in the Biden Stimulus package for Unemployment tax breaks on the first $10,200 of benefits.
Texas TWC Payment Status of September Extensions – Latest News and Status on PUA, PEUC and $300 FPUC
The Texas TWC has provided the following graphic showing all the programs now available and they have implemented the program changes required to apply the 25 week extension to all eligible claimants.
Benefit Year End Reviews
All unemployment claims are required to be reviewed after one year per law. Claimants approaching the end of their benefit year should take no additional action. If your UI claim has been open more than one year then you need to be aware of the following actions:
- DO NOT attempt to open a new claim.
- DO continue to certify for weekly benefits according to the schedule.
The review of your claim will occur automatically; the TWC will contact you only if more information is needed. If you recently reached the end of your benefit year, a review of your claim has been completed or is underway. When the review is complete, you will receive confirmation your weekly certification for benefits was successful.
2021 Unemployment Program Extensions Under COVID Relief Bill
The $900 billion COVID-19 relief package was passed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, which among several other pandemic relief measures extends and provides additional federal funding for enhanced unemployment benefits. This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and a reinstatement, but halving of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program which provides a $300 supplemental weekly unemployment payment.
These programs have been funded and extended for 11 weeks (on top of any state funded extensions), covering the weeks of December 26th, 2020 to March 14th, 2021. To receive FPUC benefits, you must be receiving regular UI, PEUC, EB, or PUA.
TWC Unemployment Extension Payment Update and Status
TWC will automatically enroll all Texans who are eligible for the UI benefits extension. They have advised that there is no need for people to call or reapply. For individuals unable to request payment due to having exhausted their claims in advance of the previous December 26 deadline, TWC will send them updated information once system updates have been made.
“No one should have to re-apply for benefits. If you are currently receiving benefits, continue to request payments. If your benefits have been exhausted, we will automatically re-enroll you,” said Cisco Gamez, media and public relations specialist, Texas Workforce Commission.
At this stage whose with regular UI benefits are getting paid the extra $300 FPUC. Those with an active PUA an PEUC claim as of December 27th, will also get paid for weeks they can certify. Those who had exhausted their benefits as of December 27th will have to wait until TWC systems are updated with new legislation requirements to get paid the extended benefits and extra $300 weekly payment.
UI claimants with existing or expired claim balances should be aware of the following general guidelines:
- PUA and PEUC, FPUC will be automatically added to the claimants’ benefits if they are eligible for the weeks outlined in the new legislation. TWC confirmed that there is no need for people to call or reapply. For individuals unable to request payment due to having exhausted their claims in advance of the previous December 26 deadline, TWC will send them updated information.
- Claimants with weeks remaining in UI should continue to file weekly claims
- Claimants who will have additional weeks in UI and PUA or PEUC due to state provisions (where applicable) should watch their state agency UI portal or website for updates that will allow additional weeks to be filed.
- Claimants will be retroactively caught up on payments for all weeks they are eligible.
- Claimants currently receiving benefits through the Extended Benefits program must finish all weeks of EB before receiving additional weeks of PEUC.
I will post additional details as they are released in coming days. So stay tuned for updates.
Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program – Now Ended
TWC has completed paying the $300 under the LWA program, which provides supplemental payments to eligible unemployment benefits claimants who have been unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. Eligible Texas claimants receive a $300 LWA payment at the same time as their unemployment benefits payment. All 6 weeks (or $1800) have been paid and only retroactive payments are being processed.
LWA benefits were funded and paid retroactively for the benefit week ending (BWE) August 1, 2020, through September 5th 2020.
To be eligible for LWA benefits:
- Your weekly benefit amount must be $100 from existing UI programs.
- You must certify that you are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.
How long does it take to receive benefits?
On average, it takes about 21 days for a person to receive benefits from the time they apply and qualify. Some people receive benefits sooner and for some it might take a little more time (retroactive payments are in place)
How do I get paid?
You should request payment on the date provided when you established your claim. You will request payment every two weeks after that. You can:
- Log on to Unemployment Benefits Services and select “Request a Payment”, OR
- Call Tele-Serv, our automated system, at 800-558-8321 from 7am to 6pm daily and select Option 1.
CARES Act Unemployment Compensation Expansion for COVID-19 Relief
The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused unprecedented changes to the lives of individuals all across Texas and across the globe. Since March 14, the Texas Workforce commission helped over 1 million Texans file unemployment claims which is equivalent to around 75 weeks of claims in a month’s time.
The Governor declared the COVID-19 Pandemic a disaster March 13, 2020; therefore, the TWC can backdate a claim to the prior Sunday which is March 8, 2020 if an individual was unemployed and has been trying to file but has not yet been successful. If the individual became unemployed subsequent to March 13, 2020 and has been attempting file but not yet successful then their claim will be effective the Sunday prior to the date they were separated from work.
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is working with federal, state and local government officials and agencies to help manage the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Under the CARES act, there are three types of federal unemployment assistance now available:
• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): expands eligibility for individuals who are typically ineligible for regular state unemployment benefits, for example independent contractors, and self-employed and “gig” workers.
• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): provides an additional $600 per week, on top of regular benefits, to all recipients of Unemployment Insurance; retroactive to the week ending April 4, 2020. This program expired at the end of July 2020 (under review by Congress for an extension).
• Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): provides an additional 13 weeks of Unemployment benefits to all recipients.
Additionally, TWC has begun rolling out the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), adding an additional $600 per week for claimants. Individuals receiving Unemployment Insurance (UI) or federal extended benefits qualify for the additional $600. [From April 13, 2020]
If you have already applied for traditional UI benefits, you do not need to take any further action to quality for PUA. Do not apply for benefits again. TWC will review eligibility for PUA for all existing applicants automatically and notify claimants by mail or electronic correspondence of their eligibility.
Independent contractor, self-employed or 1099 workers have until December 26, 2020 to provide their 2019 Internal Revenue Service Form 1040 and Schedule C, F, or SE.
Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dated March 27, 2020, individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or who otherwise would not qualify for regular Unemployment Compensation (UC) or Extended Benefits (EB) under state or federal law or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) under section 2107 may be eligible for assistance under PUA. Coverage may also include individuals who have exhausted their benefits under regular UC or EB claims under state or federal law, or PEUC.
Filing a Claim and FAQs
Individuals affected by COVID-19 can apply for PUA benefits online through Unemployment Benefit Services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or by calling a TWC Tele-Center any day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at 800-939-6631.When applying, individuals affected by the pandemic should indicate that as the reason they lost their job.
What do I do if I was previously denied benefits due to my base period?
You may reapply. Unemployment benefit eligibility is based on past wages, job separation and ongoing eligibility requirements. Prior to April 5, past wages are calculated on a base period of October 2018-September 2019. However, starting on April 5, 2020, the base period changes to January 2019-December 2019. If you were previously denied unemployment benefits due to monetary ineligibility and worked during the January 2019-December 2019 base period, TWC encourages you to visit the unemployment benefit services portal on April 5 to reapply online.
Are UI benefits taxable?
Unemployment benefits are taxable. Individuals can sign up for withholding and the Texas Workforce Commission will deduct 10% for income tax withholding.
Requesting Payment and Certifying for Benefits
You must request payment to receive benefits. Request benefit payment as instructed, approximately one to two weeks after you apply for benefits, and every two weeks after that. You can find the date you are scheduled to request payment online using TWC’s Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling Tele-Serv at 800-558-8321. If you do not request payment within the calendar week your request is due, your payment may be delayed or denied.
Don’t wait for TWC to notify you of your eligibility. Make sure to request payment on the date listed in the instructions sent to you by the TWC. If you cannot complete your payment request because of high call or user volume, you will need to call in and speak to a representative. If you delay requesting payment or cannot get through to TWC to complete your request, it will not affect your eligibility for benefits. However, it may delay when you receive your payment.
When requesting payment, you will answer several questions regarding your work and earnings and whether you met eligibility requirements during the claim period. You must then certify that your responses are true and complete. If you work during a benefit payment period, report your gross earnings as part of your payment request.
You can request benefit payments online or by phone:
- Online: 24 hours a day using Unemployment Benefits Services at ui.texasworkforce.org. Select Request a Payment. You will need a User ID and password.
- Phone: Tele-Serv, the TWC automated telephone system, at 800-558-8321. Select Option 1. You will need your Social Security number and the four-digit PIN you created when you first applied for benefits.
How to Request Backdated Weeks and Retroactive Payments
If you are given the opportunity to request benefit payments for backdated weeks on either Tele-Serv or Unemployment Benefits Services (UBS), you must request them at that time. If you do not, the system will not allow you to try later and you will have to call the Tele-Center.
If you have any questions or problems with any backdated payment requests, call the TWC Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 to speak with a customer service representative.
Which numbers can I call to get more information or help with Texas UI
To speak with a customer service representative, call an unemployment benefits Tele-Center @ 800-939-6631. Because of the overwhelming number of calls the TWC is receiving, they have extended Tele-Center hours and are now Sunday – Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Central Time. See more contact information here.