Here are the big changes coming to unemployment benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic

HOUSTON – One week from this Saturday, the amount of money many Texans on unemployment get will go way down. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) ends on July 25.

Texans collecting unemployment get an average of $349 from the state each week. Since April, the CARES Act stacked an extra $600 on top of that. That means those eligible are collecting up to $3796 a month.

For some, it’s more than they made working full-time before the pandemic.

What happens when the extra $600 federal unemployment payments end?

Come July 25, benefits drop back down to about $349 a week or $1,396 a month. Normally, Texas cuts recipients off after 26 weeks, but new protections because of the coronavirus mean some people will collect unemployment up to 59 weeks. That will get some people through July 2021.

What if my employer calls me back but I don’t want to go to return to work?

If your employer calls you back to work and you refuse, you may lose your benefits. There are some specific protections for at-risk employees, 65 or older, or employees caring for children or at-risk family members. If you don’t fall into one of those categories, but you refuse to return to work, you will likely lose your benefits.

Online, the Texas Workforce Commission is asking employers to report employees who have refused to return to work.

Finding a new job

There are more than 620,000 jobs listed online at www.workintexas.com. Texas Workforce Solutions hosts virtual job fairs frequently. If you want to participate, go to www.wrksolutions.com/VirtualJobFair. Create a username and password. Then go to your email for the admission link. When the fair goes live, you can log in with your email and password.

Follow these tips to make the most of the virtual job fairs:

• Register for the online job fair in advance

• Test your equipment

• Have your resume ready

• Practice describing your skills, abilities and experience

• Use complete sentences

• Follow-up with the requested action