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Consumer expert Amy Davis gets answers to your questions about unemployment claims

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HOUSTON – The most recent numbers Monday show that 30 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus pandemic began. About 1.5 million of those claims are from Texans.

KPRC 2 has asked, but the Texas Workforce Commission has not reported how many people have been approved for benefits to date.

We do have answers from TWC for some of your questions. We are posting those answers here in hopes of clearing up confusion on the process of applying for and receiving unemployment benefits.

First, if you need to file for unemployment benefits, there are two ways to do that.

By phone:

Call 1-800-939-6631.

Business hours are now Sunday - Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central time.

-or-

Apply online at this link.

If you need to get payment information or check the status of your claim, get general information about unemployment benefits, and establish or change your PIN, call Tele-Serv, TWC’s automated telephone system at 1-800-558-8321. Claim status and payment request options are available daily, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time. General information is available anytime.

If you want to know how much you will receive if you are approved for unemployment benefits, you can use the TWC’s Unemployment Benefits Estimator.

Q: I have two children that are not in school due to COVID-19. My job is reopening but I can only work one day. Can I still get unemployment?

A: People returning to work with reduced hours may still qualify for unemployment insurance. This will vary on a case by case basis. When requesting payment, you are required to report wages earned. Depending on the number of wages earned, you may or may not continue to qualify for unemployment insurance.

Q: My daughter just started working in February, but got furloughed at the end of March. She applied for unemployment but got denied. Can she re-apply?

A: Unless TWC knows the circumstances of why this person got denied, we can’t answer. However, she may be one of the ones who gets automatically enrolled in PUA. She should wait until May 1. If we have not notified her of her enrollment by then, she should reapply.

In normal times, people can reapply every quarter, which moves the quarters for the base period up and may help their eligibility. But if the daughter’s very first job just started in February, she will not be eligible monetarily unless her job loss is COVID-19 related. Then, as I said, she should get automatically enrolled. If not, after May 1 she can file again.

Q: Exactly who will receive the additional $600/wk unemployment payment from the government’s stimulus package?

A: Anyone receiving Texas Unemployment Insurance of any kind would also receive the additional $600 weekly benefits added to their benefit payments from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. FPUC is available for the weeks ending April 4, 2020 to July 25, 2020.

Q: If I was already receiving unemployment before the pandemic do I still receive the 13-week extension, plus the $600 a week added? And do I need to do anything to get the extra benefits?

A: The maximum amount of Texas Unemployment Insurance is 26 weeks. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) provides an additional 13 weeks for those that have exhausted Texas Unemployment Insurance for a total of 39 weeks of benefits. Anyone receiving Texas Unemployment Insurance of any kind would also receive the additional $600 weekly benefits added to their benefit payments from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. FPUC is available for the weeks ending April 4, 2020 to July 25, 2020.

If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

If you applied for unemployment benefits but lacked the necessary wages to qualify, no action is needed. We will determine if you qualify under the new stimulus bill and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility. We are currently upgrading our system to adapt to the new legislation and will begin paying PEUC extended benefits as soon as possible.

Q: When can people expect to see the additional $600 in unemployment benefits?

A: TWC is taking action to implement the new law and working with the Department of Labor to implement the act while continuing to work tirelessly to process unemployment insurance claims caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.