Texas unemployment benefits guide
If you live in Texas and you're unemployed through no fault of your own, you're probably entitled to Texas unemployment benefits.
But getting those payments can be a little complicated. Some people say that learning about the system is similar to learning a foreign language. You'll have plenty of acronyms to memorize and lots of websites to visit.
In the end, your hard work will pay off. You're entitled to payments, and they can keep you afloat while you search for the perfect job.
What Is Unemployment?
Plenty of misconceptions swirl around monthly checks for the unemployed. If you've heard that payments are for lazy people who don't want to work, for example, you've heard a damaging myth that could keep you from getting help.
Unemployment programs are managed at the state level, but the program originates with the federal government. In 1935, officials developed rules to support those out of work. Some funds come from federal coffers, but states manage rules and admissions.
Unemployment benefits obviously benefit people who get checks each month. But those payments help the larger economy too. When you have money, you spend it. And every transaction keeps another company (and another family) afloat.
For example, in 2020, experts said extending coronavirus payments for just six months could boost gross domestic product by 3.7% per quarter. Lawmakers felt that payments just made economic sense for the country as a whole.
If you qualify for payments, apply for them. You deserve the assistance, and the money you spend could help others too.
The Basics: Are You Eligible for Texas Unemployment Benefits?
If you worked in Texas and you were forced to leave the job through no fault of your own, you're likely eligible for payments. But some exceptions exist.
If you quit your job, rather than being asked to leave, you may not qualify. If your job loss comes through misconduct, you could also be ineligible. You may not be eligible if you were fired due to:
- Policy. If you're given a handbook with all the rules and regulations clearly defined, and you broke the rules knowingly, getting benefits could be difficult.
- Criminal activity. Did you steal something and get caught? Or did you break the law in some other way that caused the job loss?
- Poor performance. Did you neglect to handle the duties assigned to you? Did you fail to perform your work despite the ability to do so?
If your hours were drastically cut but you kept your job, you could be qualified too. But the same rules about misconduct apply. And the reduction can't come through your decision. For example, if you asked for fewer hours so you could spend more time with your children, your claim could be denied.
How to Apply for Texas Unemployment Benefits
As soon as you lose your job, it's time to spring into action and start working with the Texas Workforce Commission. Most people file for benefits and keep in touch with the commission via a website portal.
Head to the Unemployment Benefits Services page to get started. If you've never worked with this organization, and you don't have a login with another Texas Workforce Commission site, you'll need to create a username/password combination. Write it down, as you'll use it often.
You'll use this site to apply for your benefits. But you can also use it to:
- Request your weekly checks.
- Track your claims and appeals as they work through the system.
- Submit proof of your work search.
- Change your payment options.
Your application is broken into several sections, including:
- Initial questions. You'll confirm your Social Security number and offer details about your military service, federal government positions (if any), mailing address, and more.
- Last employment. You'll explain when you started and stopped your job, and you'll give your employer's name, address, phone numbers, and more. You'll also outline how much you made in that job.
- Payment preferences. If the application is accepted, you'll outline how you want your funds to come to you.
Answer each question as carefully and accurately as you can. You're given a chance to review the entire application before you submit it. Take advantage of this opportunity and look over everything once more. You can't change your application online once you hit the "submit" button.
Appeals: What if You’re Wrongfully Denied Help?
The Texas Workforce Commission will send you a letter if your application is denied. You'll be told why the group doesn't think you're qualified for benefits, and you're given an opportunity to explain yourself in an appeal.
You have two weeks to get back to the commission, and you'll communicate online. Go back to your login page, and look for the "Submit an Appeal" button on the left-hand side of the page after you log in.
You're given a drop-down menu to explain why you're appealing the decision. A math error could make you seem ineligible, for example, or the group overlooked an important part of your application.
You can tap out your reason in a long-form text box. You have 4,500 words, so you can talk at length about what happened and why you think the wrong choice was made.
When you're done typing, submit the form and wait. The team might need several weeks to review all of the data and come to a new decision.
Applying for Work While Accepting Benefits
In Texas, you're required to look for work to keep your unemployment checks coming. If you don't seek out new positions, or you can't prove that you're trying, you could lose your benefits altogether.
Follow this basic plan:
- Register. The Texas Workforce Commission runs a job-hunt website called WorkInTexas.com. Use it to find and apply for positions that are right for you.
- Accept. If an employer offers you a spot in a field you know at an acceptable salary, you must take that job. If the job is far away or you're not likely to make enough money with the position, you don't have to take the spot. But if it's a reasonably good fit for you, acceptance is a must.
- Track. The Texas Workforce Commission reserves the right to ask for proof that you've looked for a job. If you don't keep accurate records, you may be forced to scramble right before their deadline. Use their log to keep accurate notes of all you're doing to find the right job.
You may stumble on a part-time, low-paying job while you're searching. You can earn up to 25% of your weekly benefit amount and still keep your unemployment benefits. But you must report how long you worked and how much you made every week when you log in to ask for payments.
How Unemployment Payments Work
After you submit your paperwork, the Texas Workforce Commission will determine how much you should make each week based on the salary you had before you lost your job.
Each week, you must log into your account and ask the group to send you another payment. Expect plenty of questions about your job hunt, your address, and other details.
And if you're asked follow-up questions, respond as quickly as you can. Delayed answers could mean delayed checks too.
When you sign up, you'll be automatically enrolled in the Texas Workforce Commission payment plan. That means the group will send you a debit card loaded up with your payments each week.
You can change that option to direct deposit. Log into your account, select My Home, and tap Payment Option Quick Link. Provide information about your bank, and your payments will go there instead.
If you sign up to receive your payments to your Current premium account (using your account and routing number), you'll get your money up to two days faster than with a traditional bank. Most banks need a few days to process electronic payments, and they make you wait. We don't. As soon as your funds arrive, we give them to you.
If you're eligible for unemployment benefits in Texas, we encourage you to use this option to get your money quickly and securely. Download our app and create an account in just two minutes.
How Does Unemployment Insurance Work? And How Is It Changing During the Coronavirus Pandemic? (July 2020). Brookings.
Cutting Off the $600 Boost to Unemployment Benefits Would be Both Cruel and Bad Economics. (June 2020). Economic Policy Institute.
Unemployment Benefits Handbook. (June 2016). Texas Workforce Commission.
Unemployment Benefit Services Logon. Texas Workforce Commission.
How to Create User IDs and Passwords. Texas Workforce Solutions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Unemployment Benefits During the COVID-19 Pandemic. (October 2020). Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.
The Texas Workforce Commission Work Search Log. (September 2020). Texas Workforce Commission.
How to Calculate and Report Earnings. Texas Workforce Commission.
Unemployment Insurance: A Quick Guide. Texas AFL-CIO.
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