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Answering your questions about unemployment benefits

HOUSTON – More than two million Texans have applied for unemployment since mid-March and that number is increasing every day. Trying to get benefits and navigate an incredibly crowded system is frustrating for many of you. Consumer expert Amy Davis is answering some of the most common questions she’s getting about the application process.

Q: I have spent hours trying to get through to the Texas Workforce Commission with no luck. The lines are constantly busy. What is the best way to reach a real person?

A: Even with eight call centers that are open seven days a week from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., staffed with more than 1000 call takers, the Texas Workforce Commission is swamped. The number to call the TWC Tele-Center is 1-800-939-6631. The TWC recommends people call as soon as the lines open on Saturday and Sunday or later closer to 7 p.m. Those are the least busy times.

You can also try to engage with the virtual assistance on www.TWC.Texas.gov. “Larry the Chatbot” can help you if you are having problems with your PIN or password, among other issues. You can also ask Larry to have a TWC representative call you.

Q: “My husband started on unemployment. He has not gotten any back pay, just from the date he applied. I’ve talked to other people about this. Some got it. Some said it came several weeks later.”

A: The TWC says every case is different. Sometimes the Commission does backdate benefits automatically. If you didn’t receive back pay and you lost your job before the date you applied for unemployment because of the pandemic, you need to call the telecenter and ask for your claim to be backdated.

Q: How long will I receive unemployment?

A: Usually in Texas, you can only collect unemployment benefits for 26 weeks. The first federal coronavirus relief bill extended that an additional 13 weeks. Monday, June 1st, the feds added 13 more weeks, making it a total of 52 weeks that eligible Texans can collect unemployment.

The TWC says recipients will not have to reapply to receive the extra pay. They will just need to log back in or call every two weeks to request the benefits.

Q: Is the work search requirement waived?

A: At this time, work search requirements are waived. Prior to reinstating work search requirements, TWC will alert the media and announce the date a minimum of two weeks prior to the date.

Q: I filed for unemployment on April 4th. My application is still under review. When I finally got in touch with someone at TWC, they told me they are still waiting for information from my former employer. How long does TWC give employers to weigh in?

A: When a claimant applies for unemployment benefits TWC sends the last employer a “Notice of Application for Unemployment Benefits” that asks the employer to provide information regarding why the claimant lost their job. The employer has 14 days after the mailing date to respond. TWC provides an online portal for employers to respond, but they can also respond by phone, fax or mail. If an employer does not respond or does not respond on time, they can lose their right to appeal any decision TWC makes about the claim. TWC does not reach out to the employer if they do not respond on time or at all. If an employer does respond timely but their response creates an issue (for example, because their response contradicts what their former employee said), then TWC will open an investigation and then reach out to both parties to ascertain the truth.

If the employer needs to ask TWC questions or needs help with unemployment matters, the employer can call our Tele-Center dedicated employer telephone line at: 866-274-1722 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.