On March 19, Governor Greg Abbott announced four executive orders to prepare for and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. That same day, John W. Hellerstedt, M.D., Commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, issued a Declaration of a Public Health Disaster in the State of Texas. As a result, many Texans found themselves without work. Abbot’s orders, which were originally set to expire on March 31 have been extended to April 30.
To help stabilize the economy and prevent economic collapse, the federal government enacted the CARES Act on March 27. Part of the stimulus package will provide enhanced Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). This means that eligible Texans may be able to receive $600 per week in addition to regular unemployment benefits, which range from $69 and $521 per week.
Between March 16 and April 3, over 500,000 unemployment claims were filed with the Texas Workforce Commission. According to the press release issued on April 3 by the TWC, the number of unemployment claims will soon surpass those of all of 2019 combined, and as a result, the call center and online access is overwhelmed. To help alleviate the problems this influx of new claims has caused the TWC, they have implemented a staggered system. For people with a 940 area code, the TWC’s recommendation is to call or access the website on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, between 8:00 a.m. and noon. A list of hours available to each area code can be found here, on the TWC’s website.