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Texas unemployment agency’s bank account drained, now borrowing federal money to pay out-of-work Texans

The Texas Workforce Commission assures benefits won't be interrupted or diminished even as it borrows. And TWC clarifies upcoming work search requirement.

In a matter of months, the Texas Workforce Commission has blown through its $2-billion trust fund to pay benefits to more than 2.5 million Texans who have filed for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting June 9, the TWC’s bank account was set to go negative, when the agency began drawing upon federal loan money known as Title XII Advances. The agency can rely on the funding every day to continue making payments. To date, TWC has borrowed $118,297,483 under the program, which provides the funds interest-free into December 2020.

The agency stressed that the state will continue to take advantage of this money stream and that Texans will continue getting benefits uninterrupted as the agency replenishes its accounts. 

Combining the total amount of state benefits with the supplemental federal benefits provided for by the CARES Act, TWC spokesman Cisco Gamez said the agency has paid more than $12.3 billion in unemployment during the pandemic.

As the Texas economy continues its phased reopening, Workforce commissioners recently decided to reinstate the work search requirement. 

The rule will resume July 6. Texans filing unemployment payment requests after that date must conduct three work searches each week.

Full information: Texas Workforce Commission reinstates work search requirement

You do not have to prove your work searches unless the agency asks for them. But if you cannot produce them, you could be forced to repay benefits. TWC has a sample work search log you can keep. Keep your detailed records in a safe place where you will not lose them. 

Many people have asked whether the work search requirement will apply to their specific situations. We got answers to as many of those as we could:

Will the work search requirement apply to people who are permitted by TWC guidelines to refuse to return to their jobs because they are considered to be at ‘high risk’ during the pandemic?

Yes, even if you are considered at high-risk during the pandemic and have met a TWC requirement to be able to refuse to return to your job, you will be bound by the work search requirement when it returns July 6. 

"Those people could search for work from home--the safety of their home," Gamez explained.

He gave examples of how some of the people who have been allowed to refuse to return to their jobs could potentially find new employment situations: 

“Someone who is at high risk, that person could potentially find a job where they could work from home. And someone who doesn’t have childcare…there’s a possibility they could find a job that works with their schedule…they could potentially work from home.”

Will people with reduced hours need to search for work?

Claimants working part-time and receiving unemployment insurance or who are partially unemployed by working reduced hours are required to search for full-time work when work search is reinstated, and currently must be able and available for work and accept suitable work when offered. 

Claimants working for an employer under a shared work plan are not required to do work search.

If someone is working their usual number of hours, but is receiving unemployment benefits because of reduced pay, will they be required to conduct work searches?

Presumably, yes. TWC didn't answer the question directly. But in order to qualify for benefits when receiving reduced pay, claimants have to check a box that says reduced hours. And the work search requirement will apply to reduced hours claims. 

**We also asked whether the work search requirement will apply to people who are currently receiving benefits because a medical illness or injury prevents them from returning to their job. TWC is still looking into that.

What about people who were self-employed, but are now receiving unemployment benefits because they had to shutter their businesses? 

They will not be required to conduct work searches, but after July 6, they will instead be required to take three ‘steps’ each week toward reopening their businesses. 

Gamez said those steps will "vary on a case-by-case basis based on the business."

He said few examples included updating their website, marketing their business, posting to social accounts, or networking with potential new clients

"So that it is showing that they are doing something to help reopen their business," said Gamez.

What if you are furloughed?

The TWC said as long as your return-to-work date is 12 weeks or less from the date of your layoff, you will be exempt from the work search requirement. 

If your return-to-work date is more than 12 weeks from the date of your layoff, or if you don’t yet have a date for your return-to-work, you will need to contact TWC to inquire whether the work search requirement applies to you.

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