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Help is available for Texans still struggling to file unemployment, collect benefits

HOUSTON – As Texas continues smashing unemployment records, many people who are out of work are still struggling to find jobs, file claims, and collect benefits.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Texas in March, the Texas Workforce Commission says it’s helped more than 3.4 million Texans file for unemployment insurance and paid out $14.4 billion in benefits.

But getting through the system remains problematic for some.

Scott Leonard, 60, of Seabrook is a former petrochemical project manager who has been waiting six weeks for benefits.

“Oh I’ve called at least a hundred times or more, every day, different times of the day,” he said. “Because the rest of the day, I’m trying to beat the bushes and make some money.”

Scott is now driving for Uber and Lyft just so he can stay afloat financially.

“I’ve tried all those things, 7 a.m., first thing, different times of the day, on the weekends, and can never get through,” he said.

Signs of improvement

For three months, Channel 2 Investigates has been pushing the TWC for answers on why so many people are waiting so long for help. A spokesperson tells us while the agency is still slammed with applications, the unemployment crisis in Texas is improving.

In May, the unemployment rate dropped to 13%, down slightly from the high of 13.5%.

From May 15 to June 15, the Texas economy added 291,000 private-sector jobs.

And as of Thursday, the agency’s job site lists more than 577,000 jobs right now and nearly three-million resumes have been uploaded.

Help is available

Michelle Castrow with Workforce Solutions said she and her staff of almost 1,000 are helping people find jobs through the state’s website and other sites. But that’s not all.

“The other thing we’re encouraging people to do is visit with our employment counselors,” she said. “We are the public work force system for the entire Houston-Galveston region, meaning just like the public library or public education system, we are here to serve. There is no cost to take advantage of our services.”

And Brazoria County State Representative Ed Thompson has taken a bold step to help those struggling to get answers about their claim status.

“We want to help the most we can, to get people that money as fast as we can,” he said.

Thompson is offering to connect people who call his office, even those outside of his district, directly with customer service representatives at TWC.

As for Leonard, he is still trying to get answers about his unemployment money from TWC and prays all of those who have lost jobs during this pandemic will get the help they so desperately need.

“Let God touch them, let Jesus touch their heart, cause he will help them through this situation,” he said.